School suspensions were up 23 percent in Fairfax County during the last school year. Black students were suspended at twice the rate of white students.
These and other statistics regarding discipline in the county schools during the 1978-1979 school year, were released this week at a human relations workshop sponsored by the school system.
School administrators stressed their commitment to firm discipline, but said they hoped to find ways of preventing student behavior which results in suspensions.
"We want the numbers to go down, but only if they are accompanied with better behavior," said one administrator.
Educators and administrators expressed dismay over figures which showed overall student suspensions up 23 percent from the year before. This figure did not include group suspensions as the result of actions taken by high school seniors in support of the teacher's work-to-the-rule job action last spring.
In a county where black students make up 5.8 percent of the total school population, blacks accounted for 12 percent of all suspensions.
Additionally, figures showed that 20.2 percent of all black students in Fairfax high schools were suspended for at least one day last year while 8.3 percent of white students and other minorities were suspended.
According to the statistics, white and black students were suspended for slightly different reasons. Leading the list for white student suspension were attendance, insubordination and drugs, while blacks were most often suspended for insubordination, fighting and attendance.
Educators attending the conference emphasized that suspensions are a last resort.
Several principals said they prefer to use in-school suspensions which keep the offending student isolated fromthe student body but in the school.
Frank Elliott, principal of Thomas Jefferson High School, spoke in favor of in-school suspensions. He said that with the proper suspervision, students can be given counseling as well as help with their home work when they stay in the school building.
Elliott said he has been forced to abandon his in-school suspension program because of staffing problems.
Area I School Superintendent Herman Howard said he favors in-school suspensions in some cases,but said students tell him their parents are less concerned when they are given in-school suspensions than when they are removed from the school.
"The high level of discipline in the Fairfax schools is something we want to maintain," Howard said in an interview after the workshop. "I do not want to reduce just the numbers of suspensions, what I'm looking at are ways to prevent the behavior that leads to suspensions."
An elementary school principal said that perhaps some of the disciplinary problems in the upper grades were the result of students losing a close indentification with their teachers.
"When students leave elementary school they may never again get to know a teacher really well," she said. "Maybe something could be done to help the students get through the transition."
School board member Ann Kahn suggested that all school employes working with students might be given some instruction in human relations to ease tensions which sometimes arise in cafeterias and school buses.
All figures were compiled by the Office of Statistical Support based on weekly school suspension data. The information is required of all school system by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.