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Discipline is changing at Clark County schools

Posted at 6:11 PM, Feb 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-16 11:40:54-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Discipline in school is constantly changing and the Clark County School District is looking at ways to punish students without kicking them off campus.

"How do we change behavior, because throwing them out is not the answer?" Superintendent Jesus Jara asked.

In recent months CCSD's superintendent has been talking about the disproportionate discipline among certain groups of students. He has used the numbers regarding African American students making up 13 percent of the population but 40 percent of the suspensions and expulsions to highlight the problem.

"When you look at our achievement data we have huge gaps. So if we keep them in school our kids will be able to learn," Jara said. "If you put them in the streets, they are going to be in the streets. They are not going to be responsible citizens."

Jara is challenging district leaders to find a way to keep kids in school by taking a hard look at the scales of justice.

The district expanding the idea of multi-tiered systems of support with Assistant Superintendent Tammy Malich leading the effort.

"Really focusing on the behavior more than the person who committed the behavior," Malich said.

While the superintendent uses the stats surrounding the African American achievement and discipline gap, Malich says the issue is about consistency.

"If we all agree needs to be handled at a lower level, we handle it that way regardless of what that student looks like, what gender that student is, really it is based on the behavior," Malich said.

That is where programs like My Brother's Keeper and The Harbor come in, offering schools police and parents a place to turn with at-risk students to determine why they are acting out.

"Really it is about making sure we have systems in place that support all youth with the understanding that our minority youth aren't doing well," Lisa Morris Hibbler, the City of Las Vegas' Director of Youth Development & Social Innovation said.

My Brother's Keeper was launched in 2014 as part of President Barack Obama's initiative to help improve the lives of young men of color and has continued past the president's time in office.

"We were seeing them have some of the lowest graduation rates. We were seeing them over-represented in the juvenile justice system," Morris Hibbler said.

One of the keys is the mentorship aspect offering positive role models for the kids.

"I'm a product of mentoring. I'm a product of progressive law enforcement at the time. This me repaying those officers that helped me as a youngster," My Brother's Keeper Board Member Ken Young said.

Young is also a CCSD police captain,he knows how important advice from a community leader can have.

"I'm really excited by the new push from the superintendent that he wants to see a thousand new mentors by the year 2024. That is a huge impact on the community," Young said.

The Harbor gives police and parents a place to turn for help determining why children ar acting out instead of sending them straight to the juvenile justice system.

"As we peel back the onion, if you will, we tend to see there other underlying issues that are manifesting themselves as disruptive behavior or delinquent acts,"Morris Hibbler said. "This is a place where families can come when they are having difficulties before their children even start getting into some of the deeper issues. Before they are suspended or in the juvenile justice systems."

When it comes to results, the numbers tell a pretty convincing story.

"We have served over 6,000 children in the Harbor in the past two years it has been open and only 400 have escalated into the juvenile justice center," Morris Hibbler said.

If you are a family in need, The Harbor offers services free of charge.

What is Raising The Bar?

Together with parents, educators, business and community leaders, 13 Action News will lead the discussion on improving education in Southern Nevada. We will connect families with solutions that empower our community to build a foundation for a successful future. If you have a story idea, email us at raisingthebar@ktnv.com.