Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Bladensburg High had most suspensions during 2006-2007

Principal says new uniform policy partly to blame for increase

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Bladensburg High School had more suspensions than any other school in the county during the 2006-2007 school year and the school’s principal points to the introduction of uniforms as part of the reason for the spike.

A Maryland State Department of Education report for the 2006-2007 school year lists Bladensburg as having the most number of suspensions in the county with 1,399 combined in-school and out-of-school suspensions. That number showed an increase of more than 500 over the 2005-2006 suspension numbers.

Principal Andrea Philips-Hughes said the spike in suspensions was partly because the school introduced uniforms at the start of the 2005-2006 school year.

The report lists Bladensburg as having 1,027 suspensions as a result of disrespect, insubordination or disruption in the 2006-2007 school year, up from 313 the previous year. Uniform infractions fall into that category.

School faculty had to constantly remind students to tuck in their shirts, wear belts and follow other uniform rules, she said. When students disobeyed several times, suspensions were handed down.

‘‘Students slacked off...It is a battle [to keep students in proper uniform],” Philips-Hughes said.

Philips-Hughes said when students do not wear the proper uniform, or wear their uniform improperly, she sends notices home to their parents.

The Rev. Gail Addison, who has partnered with Bladensburg to bring her Pathways to Career Success program to the school, said she could see how many of the students could be suspended for uniform infractions. Pathways is a program that prepares students for work and for college by building social and academic skills.

‘‘There are an awful lot of kids that had to be suspended...for not wearing their uniform. It’s a shame that kids are suspended for something like that. They have control of that. All they have to do is do what they’re asked to do,” she said.

But Addison said though the number of suspensions at Bladensburg is high, she sees it as an opportunity to help the students.

‘‘When I hear things like that, I don’t get depressed, even though it is sad to see so many kids engaged in things that cause them to get suspended, but I also see it as an opportunity to reach out to parents and [their children],” she said. ‘‘What I think this means is we have a tremendous opportunity to beef up what we’re doing.”

Addison said her program offers a number of opportunities for students to prepare for life after school, including tutoring, SAT and ACT preparation and a club for young ladies and their mothers to improve their social skills and etiquette.

‘‘Most of the kids at Bladensburg are complying [with] and following the rules, and they’re doing some great things, they really are. That’s why I really love that school,” she said.

Bladensburg currently has 1,740 students enrolled at the school, said schools spokeswoman Tanzi West.

During the 2006-2007 school year, Bladensburg had 155 suspensions as a result of attacks, threats or fighting, down from 219 the previous year.

John White, spokesman for Prince George’s County Public Schools, said steps were taken since the 2006-2007 was filed to improve security and install more after-school programs and Advanced Placement courses in schools.

As a result, there has been a 9 percent drop in total security-related incidents across the county. There were 1,679 in the 2005-2006 school year and 1,533 in the 2006-2007 school year. Assault between students also dropped 7 percent from 234 to 217 incidents countywide, White said.

Staff reporters Dennis Carter and Ryan McDermott contributed to this article.