Aiken County School District discipline tribunal - Is it working
The Aiken County School District Board of Education, recognizing a need for consistency in discipline throughout the Aiken County School District, appointed a Discipline Subcommittee a number of years ago. Acting upon the board's Discipline Subcommittee recommendations, a number of programs have been implemented by the board. The benefits of these programs are now being realized throughout the district.
The cell phone policy was implemented in the 2009-10 school year in order to address a growing number of discipline problems associated with cell phone usage. The policy requires students to store their phones in their lockers or automobiles during the school day. The policy includes specific penalties for cell phone violations. Since implementation of the cell phone policy, a significant drop in cell phone violations has been seen in our district schools.
Responsibility for student discipline appeals was shifted, halfway through the 2010-11 school year, from the Area Advisory Councils to a newly formed tribunal. The tribunal is made up of a panel of three members. The three-member panel travels to each Aiken County attendance area, according to a predetermined schedule, to hear and act upon student appeals. The tribunal hears student appeals during the day with students, parents and administrators in attendance. The Tribunal provides consistency across the Aiken County attendance areas. Of the 803 student appeals heard during the 2011-12 school year, 101 appeals ended in expulsions. The 101 expulsions were down from 276 during the 2010-11 school year, which is a decrease of 63 percent.
The balance of the 803 student appeals ended up in either a 10-day out-of-school suspension, short-term assignment to a local alternative school or long-term assignment to the Center for Innovated Learning at (CIL) Pinecrest. CIL was formed in the 2011-12 school year to provide a safety net for district students. CIL provides students the opportunity to maintain their academic standing and work their way back into their home school. Approximately 31 percent of students who attended CIL were transitioned back to their home school, while only 2.9 percent of the students were expelled.
Bottom line, the coordinated effort of the discipline programs are working in Aiken County. The number of expulsions has decreased significantly, and the number of students being transitioned back to their home schools has increased. Students are benefiting from the safety nets that have been put into place in the district.
Keith Liner represents the North Augusta schools on Aiken County Board of Education.