Fox Files: The St. Louis-area schools with the highest discipline rates

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ST. LOUIS – Middle schools often report the most student discipline, according to incident numbers from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

Fox 2 spent weeks pouring through the discipline incident data, which includes more than a million entries. We found a middle school is number one in the St. Louis area for overall discipline.

According to DESE data, Ferguson Middle School is number one for discipline ranging from drug-related incidents to violence. Here's the top five, according to the percentage of the student population.

“Students in our community and in communities across the country are experiencing more trauma than in times past,” said Kevin Hampton, the spokesperson for the Ferguson-Florissant School District.

Hampton said the district has responded in several ways – one is through a new safety campaign called CUBES (which stands for Clear Communication, Clear Understanding, Clear Bookbags, Clear Expectations, and Clear Supports).

“Look at the numbers this summer of young children who have died through gun violence and things like that,” he said. “That has an effect on kids and so it has an effect when they go to school.”

Hampton said the district has also restructured, meaning Berkeley Middle, which appears as number five on the list, is not the same school today. It started this year as elementary only.

Kimberly Story’s niece and nephew just started at what’s now called Berkeley Elementary and she’s hopeful.

“They’re in the prime of their life in the fourth and fifth grade and trying to get to know themselves and coming into a new environment,” Story said. “Coming to a new school really makes a difference for these kids.”

DESE also breaks down disciplines into categories, like drugs for instance. When Fox 2 crunched the numbers to search for the highest rate of drug disciplinary actions in 2019, a middle school also came out on top.

Yeatman-Liddell College Preparatory Middle School in St. Louis City reported disciplining more than three percent or 13 students for drugs. The numbers don't say the type of drug. It could range from a narcotic to a vape. The districts won't be specific for privacy reasons, but St. Louis Schools Deputy Superintendent Dr. Michael Brown said staff is paying attention.

“The parents have an opportunity to enter their students in a Preferred Healthcare Plan, which provides treatment for those students. Those students are not given long-term suspensions,” he said. “They complete the program, then they remain at the school. There’s no long-term suspension.”

Brown said it’s not surprising middle schools report high incident numbers.

“Even us when we think back to our childhood, I think middle school is that age where we try to figure things out,” he said. “We’re growing, we’re maturing, so we’re making different decisions at the middle school level, where at the high school level we’re a little bit more aware of the consequences.”

Fox 2 also crunched numbers showing the highest rate of disciplines related to violence at St. Louis-area schools in 2019.

Here’s a ranking of St. Louis area schools with the most disciplines involving weapons in 2019.

School spokespeople tell me weapons are not always guns. A pocket knife is classified as a weapon. St. Louis schools reported box cutters, intended for use at work, have led to discipline even though they weren’t intended for violence. The St. Louis County Special School District (also known as SSD) oversees Litzsinger, which is a school for children with disabilities.

A spokesperson emphasized that their weapon policy is so strict that having a nerf gun on campus would lead to discipline. The spokesperson said she could not tell us the three weapons that led to discipline in 2019 because each case goes to an in-school hearing and it could risk unintentionally identifying a student.

You can now report safety concerns directly to the state through a new Missouri State Highway Patrol app called Courage2Report.

Find out more about Ferguson-Florissant’s comprehensive safety and security plan - CUBES.

You can DOWNLOAD the entire Excel database from the Missouri Department of Secondary and Elementary Education (DESE) that tracks school disciplines by year and location and search for your school there. (Please note: this is a massive list and will take time to respond to searches.)

Reporter Chris Hayes explains how you can search the Excel database below:

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