Central Arkansas school districts face alarming number of suspensions

Some Central Arkansas school districts are facing an alarming number of suspensions.The Little Rock School District saw nearly 10,000 out-of-school suspension cases in the 2012-2013 school year, nearly half of the district's enrollment.Using information from the Arkansas Department of Education Data Center Channel 7 compiled a list of the out-of-school suspension rates for Central Arkansas schools.It is important to note the percentages are based on the number of suspensions, not the number of students suspended.LRSD's reported 9,978 out-of-school suspensions make up roughly 42 percent of the 23,594 students.Although Channel requested to speak with LRSD Superintendent Dr. Dexter Suggs multiple times over the course of three days, he declined to comment.The second most out-of-school suspensions was Pulaski County Special School District with 6,002, roughly 35 percent of their 17,245 students.Dr. John Tackett, PCSSD's director of secondary education, said it's a number the district is working to change."It has a very negative effect on their schoolwork," Tackett said. "It has a very negative effect, many times, on their perceptions of school."Tackett said PCSSD is taking a proactive approach regarding the high number of suspensions, just this year starting Alternative Learning Centers in each of the 12 middle and high schools."There is a strong correlation between student engagement and motivations and behavior," Tackett explained, adding since the ALC program's implementation this school year, there has been a decrease in out-of-school suspensions.One student in the ALC program, Hodari Turner, is a junior at PCSSD.Last year, he got behind in classes and started skipping. He was on his way to disciplinary action such as suspension."Once they get suspended and get zeros, they're like, 'Oh that's failure right there, I can't make it up so just forget about it,'" Turner said.Turner is now working to catch up and plans to graduate next year. He wants to attend college and pursue his MBS.{}He credits the ADC program for the change."I don't want to look at myself 20 years from now and say, 'Oh I should have caught up at that time,'" Turner explained.Benton and Conway school systems had the lowest number and percentage of out-of-school suspensions, both with just two percent.