Prince George's County's special study centers for misbehaving studens reduced the number of suspensions by more than 50 per cent in the three pilot schools where the program was tested, school officials said.
The county, which has frequently been criticized for suspending a disproportionate number of black students, developed the centers in the middle of last year as a way to reduce suspensions.
The announcement of the pilot program's success came during last week's school baord meeting. Superintendent of schools Edward J. Feeney, released last year's suspension figures showing a drop overe the previous year of more than 25 per cent throughout the school system.
Although the total figure dropped, the number of black students suspended rose slightly to 58 per cent of all students compared to 57 per cent a year earlier and 51 the year before that.
The school system developed a program for study centers, or Supervised Discipline Centers, to in-school alternatives to suspension.
The SDCs are supervised by a teacher and an aide and are located in school classromms with partitions that separate students assigned there. Students must complete regular classroom work and are not permitted to leave the study room, except to use the restroom.
They are assigned to the SDC's for violations of school rules that might otherwise result in their suspension, school officials said. Students are still suspended for serious violations such as drug use and carrying weapons.
The educational guidelines of the SDCs-at least in one case-are apparently not being met. This was observed recently, when a Washington Post reporter visited one of the schools where the program was conducted and discovered that a number of the students were not doing their assigned classroom work.
School officials, who say they try to enforce regulations strictly, maintain that it is better for misbehaving students to remain in classrooms-even if they are not studying-than out in the streets "making trouble."
The report on the SDCs, operating at Crossland Senior High and Roger B. Taney and Thomas Pullen Junior high schools, are "probably most effective in changing student behavior of the less chronic disruptive students."
The three SDCs had a total of 348 assignments involving 295 different students during the months of March, April, May and June, the report states.
The maximum number of students assigned to the centers at any one time was 10 students and 13.9 per cent of the 295 students were assigned more than once.
According to the report, these three schools had already reduced the number of suspensions by more than 26 per cent before the inception of the study center program.
"Even though suspensions decreased county-wide in 1977, the percentage of decreases in suspensions in the pilot schools during their period of operation were significantly beyond county-wide decreases ," the report stated.
The centers at the three schools will be operated again next year and officials are studying the possibility of establishing them in other schools.