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Rockford School District Sees Big Drop in Suspension Rates

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Suspensions plague many schools across the nation–whether from students having a lack of opportunity to learn–or simply not wanting to go to class.   

However, that is not the case here in Rockford, especially with the help of a state law, as well as student and parent engagement.

Matt Vosberg, Deputy Superintendent for Rockford Public Schools said, “What we set out to do is create consistent learning environments for kids, and places that we think are fun places to learn, and then the numbers just took care of themselves.”

Those numbers show a steep drop in student suspensions at Rockford Public Schools, which were down from 5,626 suspensions in 2009, to 2,885 in 2017.  Vosberg saying one of the biggest problems he saw when he came on board was inconsistency.

Vosberg added, “I didn’t see consistency.  I saw students that were good kids that were making bad decisions because they weren’t really sure what the expectations were.”

Those expectations now becoming more clear.  Each year RPS makes changes to the Student Code of Conduct in order to allow for better communications between the students, staff, and even the parents.  However, more clear expectations for students wasn’t the only thing that helped lower suspensions.

Senator Steve Stadelman said,  “The goal of the legislation was to reduce suspensions across the state.”

That legislation was Senate Bill 100.  It was designed to limit long-term suspensions, and to keep students in their academic environments rather than expelling them.  Stadelman believes this is the more effective approach, as opposed to a broad, zero tolerance policy.

Stadelman added,  “Each suspension needs to be looked at individually.  What were the circumstances?  How should that student be handled?  If you have the zero tolerance policy that means you have a broad brushing out of how students are treated.  Each circumstance may have unique features to it.”

That law also required districts to only dole out suspensions as a last resort.

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