District also records low number of suspended students
Union County Public Schools had one of the ten lowest dropout rates in North Carolina last year, with 233 students leaving the classroom. That was part of the information from the latest discipline reports released by the state.
In comparison, 1,404 students dropped out last year in Mecklenburg County, the most in the state. For Mecklenburg it was a 14.2 percent decrease over 2009, when 1,637 students quit the district. Union County’s dropout rate fell by almost 100 students since 2009, when 315 students left the district.
Also according to the report, 6,059 Union County students were suspended short term, 89 long term last year. That equates to a rate of 29.35 students per 100 suspended. By comparison in Mecklenburg, 35,393 students were suspended short term, 137 long term and 5 were expelled. That comes to a rate of 44.46. Neither came close to the top two, as Northhampton and Anson counties claimed those spots. While Northhampton County only had 781 students suspended, in the small school system, that equated to a rate of 102.49 per 100 students suspended. Anson finished second, with 974 students suspended or 80.90 for every 100 students.
“We are working diligently to provide educational services to all students to meet their needs, even when they find themselves in violation of the code of student conduct,” Union County Public Schools superintendent Ed Davis said. “We want to make sure schools are safe, orderly and respectful. At the same time, we do work to make sure education does not stop for students that are suspended. This approach, hopefully, leads to more students staying in school, working toward earning a diploma.”
Throughout the state, the dropout rate fell from 3.75 percent in 2009-10 to 3.43 percent across the state in 2010-11. A total of 15,342 high school students dropped out of North Carolina schools in 2010-11 as compared to 16,804 students in 2009-10. The report highlighted programs such as Union County’s Alternative to Long Term Suspension as playing a part in the decline in the dropout rate.
“Alternative schools and programs reported 14,093 student placements in 2010-11, an increase of 16.5 percent from 2009-10,” the report reads. “There were 12,943 individual students placed in ALPs over the course of the 2010-11 school year.”
Union County launched the ALTS program in 2005, hosting it at South Providence School, with the exception of a one year period where it was housed at Cuthbertson High. Violent offenders are not allowed in the program, including those who made bomb threats or brought a weapon of any type to school. The program allows students who have been suspended to earn classroom credits while away from their home school.
In the first half of the 2011-12 school year, Union County reported 43 students eligible for the ALTS program. Out of those, 33 signed up, nine from middle schools and 24 from high schools in the county.
Overall incidents down in the county
Overall in Union County, there were 342 incidents last year in the school district, which averages out to 8.76 incidents for every 1,000 students. Officials reported 142 incidents involving possession of a controlled substance, 120 incidents involving possession of a weapon and 41 incidents of possession of alcoholic beverages. School officials reported 18 assaults on school personnel, 13 sexual assaults and three cases of possession of a firearm.
Piedmont High School had the highest number of incidents involving controlled substances, reporting 26 last year. That was followed by Porter Ridge High School, which reported 22 incidents and Forest Hills High with 17. Forest Hills and Porter Ridge high schools tied for the most cases of weapons possession, with 10 each. Sun Valley Middle School was right behind, reporting nine cases of weapons possession. Piedmont High and Piedmont Middle meanwhile accounted for just under half of the sexual assault cases, with three reported at the high school and two cases reported at the middle school.
Overall, Piedmont High had the most incidents of any type, reporting 42 last year. Porter Ridge High School was right behind, with 38 incidents reported. Forest Hills High School placed third in the district, with 34 incidents reported. To put that in perspective, Mecklenburg reported 14 schools with 30 or more incidents last year, with West Mecklenburg coming in first with 65 incidents reported. Mecklenburg’s school district reported a total of 1,494 cases, compared to 342 in Union.