The Aiken County Public School District has posted information on disciplinary incidents going back to the 2013-14 school year on its website.
The posts allow parents or anyone else to see cumulative numbers for the entire system and year-by-year records of infractions and punishments by school. To see the reports, visit http://www.acpsd.net/Page/21670.
So, for example, a North Augusta High School parent who's concerned about fighting can track how many have occurred at that school and what happened as a result.
There are, however, a few caveats about how to interpret the data, said Hearing Officer Johnny Spears, whose new job is to make sure the statistics are kept accurately and to follow up and help rehabilitate students who violate the Code of Conduct, especially those who commit the most serious infractions, such as fighting.
Under the category for fighting, the recently posted reports show 605 district-wide in 2013-14, 534 in 2014-15, 659 in 2014-15 and 217 so far this school year, 2016-17.
Because fighting involves at least two people, the actual number of fights is probably about half those totals. So in 2013-14, there were probably about 300 fights, not 605. Across 41 schools, that averages out to about seven fights per school, per year.
Also, one fight can show up in multiple categories in the discipline report. For example, if one student kicked another, then both exchanged profanity, thereby disrupting their class, that incident could add to the numbers in four categories.
In years past, those related events were not always linked properly in the school system's database, inflating the overall appearance of bad behavior. The most recent numbers suggest that fighting is down significantly from the past three years.
"It's important for schools to link together the offenders as one incident," Spears said.
He has worked to improve record-keeping this year, which also could explain the drop in fighting statistics in 2016-17, and has been charged with following up on the students who have broken the rules, especially those who have been expelled.
Beginning this year, a student who was expelled the previous year and at least one parent have to meet with Spears for a readmission conference before being allowed to come back, said Shawn Foster, chief officer of operations and student services for the school system.
The student has to sign a contract to behave, do community service and undergo a mid-year check with Spears. During the student's expulsion, Spears also will provide the family a list of resources aimed at helping them resolve behavioral issues.
"It's being more proactive, not reactive," Foster said. The rehabilitative approach keeps the need to behave "in the forefront of a child's mind."
"It's our goal ultimately to prepare students to be lifelong learners and good citizens," he said. "This will work at the mall and on the basketball court."
Last year, at North Augusta High School, there were 24 instances of fighting. In two cases, expulsion was recommended. Ten brought suspension for between one and 10 days. Eight were sent to the Alternative Program for more than 10 days, and others were handled by conferences and/or in-school suspension.
In recent town hall meetings, school officials were faulted by some who felt consequences weren't harsh enough. But Foster said trying to rehabilitate a student with behavior problem isn't the same as a lack of consequences.
"Some parents come to us and say they need help. That's what rehabilitation is, not the absence of consequences," he said.
Reach James Folker at (706) 823-3339 or email@example.com