Tampa Schools Encouraged — Student Referrals to County Disciplinary Panel Down

Written by Patricia Hawke for Schools K-12

The Tampa schools are a member of the Hillsborough County School District, in which the Disciplinary Committee resides. The disciplinary panel deals with the troubled youth who commit serious offenses and policy violations at school.  The panel imposes such measures as expulsion or reassignment to another school.

This past school year of 2005-2006 had the lowest number of referrals to this disciplinary panel than any other since the 1998-1999 school year.

Tampa schools, along with the other school districts, have been trying harder to solve student problems in-school, before making referrals to the panel. This obviously has increased the number of in-school suspensions over previous years; however, the Tampa schools believe their mission is to teach children — and you cannot teach those who are not attending school. Tampa schools have cautioned their principals to be more patient and tolerant with problem students, when their offenses do not hold a danger to other students, educators and school employees. Additionally, Tampa schools educators have been educating students more aggressively on the district’s zero tolerance of violent acts and other serious offenses, strongly stressing the consequences of such acts.

The Hillsborough County School District has about 191,000 students, many of which belong to the Tampa schools (the county seat).  In the 2004-2005 school year, 1,602 students were referred to the panel for hearings. Those referrals decreased to 1,369 students in the 2005-2006 school year. These resulted in:

  • 183 students expelled;
  • 660 recommended for change of school placement;
  • More than 400 were exceptional education students, who legally cannot be expelled and were recommended for change of school placement; and
  • 113 received no expulsion or change of school placement.

The panel also saw a drop in weapons referrals. In the 2004-2005 school years, there were 336 weapons offenses. In 2005-2006, they received 311 weapons referrals, of which 19 percent were firearms. The surprising statistic is that more middle school students brought firearms to school than high school students, though this trend was seen in Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties, as well.

Principal Katie Hoffman, of the Tampa schools’ Madison Middle School, believes that the psychological development and maturity level of this age group may have something to do with the high statistics. She believes that children at this age try to impress others at a higher rate than high school students, testing their limits and succumbing to peer pressure to prove themselves.

Unfortunately for the Tampa schools, their Chamberlain Senior High School had the most overall referrals with 49.  Tampa schools’ Blake High School came in second with 40. The Tampa schools’ also led the way for elementary offense referrals with five for Cahoon Elementary.