The Kentucky Center for School Safety has released its 11th Safe Schools Data Project Report for all 174 school systems. The report covers statistics for the 2009-10 school year.
KRS 158.444 requires public schools throughout the state to publicly report board of education policy and/or law violations that result in one of four disciplinary consequences:

  • corporal punishment
  • out-of-school suspension
  • expulsion with education services
  • expulsion without education services 

Among the statewide findings in the report are:

  • Kentucky’s total public school population for 2009-10 was 644,963 students. Of that total, 40,721 students (6.32 percent) committed an offense that resulted in an out-of-school suspension or an expulsion (with or without services). Less serious disciplinary responses (e.g., parent conferences, detentions, in-school suspensions) are not reported to the Kentucky Department of Education and are not reflected in this report. It is important to keep in mind that almost 94 percent of Kentucky’s students were not offenders.
  • Although white students comprise 82.54 percent of the total student population, the percentage of white students in the offender group is 68.60 percent. On the other hand, black, non-Hispanic students make up 10.63 percent of the total student population, but account for 25.72 percent of the student offenders. Other ethnic groups represent 6.83 percent of the total student population and 5.68 percent of the offender group.
  • The number of disciplinary actions for the 2009-10 school year decreased 9.2 percent (or 6,045 actions) from the 2008-09 total and 20.8 percent (or 17,564 actions) from the 2005-06 total. This represents a continuous decline over the five-year period under study.
  • In a breakdown of disciplinary actions for board policy violations, the categories showing the biggest change from 2008-09 were failure to attend detention (with 34.8 percent decrease), profanity or vulgarity (an 18.2 percent decrease), tobacco violations (a 17.7 percent decrease), disturbing class (a 14.5 percent decrease), defiance of authority (a 10.1 percent decrease), and other board violations (an 11.3 percent decrease). Inappropriate sexual behavior and carrying or using dangerous instruments also decreased from 2008-09 levels. Fighting was the only area that showed a slight increase (up 0.4 percent from 2008-09 to 2009-10). An analysis of the five-year data trends suggests that disciplinary actions for most violations decreased substantially over the five-year period. Disciplinary actions for defiance of authority and inappropriate sexual behavior have remained relatively stable while threat/ intimidation (10.4 percent) has increased substantially over the five-year period. Each of these categories is subject to interpretation of the student action by the teachers/administrators and may be defined differently from one teacher/administrator to another.
  • As to the distribution of board violations across grade levels, there are a decreasing number of disciplinary actions from primary through 11th grade with a concurrent increasing number of actions for 12th grade, particularly between 2008-09 and 2009-10. In sixth grade, which typically marks the transition from elementary to middle school, the number of disciplinary actions is almost three times the number for 5th-graders in each of the five years. Although the data do not pinpoint causes for the increase between 5th and 6th grade, one possible explanation has to do with the more punitive philosophies of middle school administrators and teachers compared with their colleagues in elementary school. This trend of increases in disciplinary actions for board violations continues throughout middle school. Regardless of the explanation, this increase needs to be further explored, as does the large increase between 8th and 9th grades (an increase of 50 percent or more each of the five years under study), the typical transition year from middle to high school. Additionally, because the number of disciplinary actions among high school students (except for 12th grade) appears to be decreasing over the five-year and one-year periods, further exploration is needed into the increasing amount of disciplinary actions for 12th graders as well.

The full report can be viewed here KCSS Safe Schools Data Report 2009-10.