IOWA CITY – Students overwhelming have positive experiences in the Iowa City school district, but minorities continue to account for a disproportionate number of dropouts and police referrals, according to an annual report.
The district on Thursday released what it calls its “Safety and Climate Report.”
In a state-conducted survey given to sixth-, eighth-, and 11th-graders last fall, the Iowa City school district saw five-year highs in a number of categories. That included students who agreed or strongly agreed that their teachers cared about them (93 percent), felt safe at school (96 percent) and felt that students treated each other with respect (76 percent, up annually since 2007 when it was 57 percent.).
The bullying numbers were less encouraging. The percent of students who were involved in physical fights, physically mistreated in other ways, called names or teased, and excluded on purpose all increased in fall 2011 over the year before. Those numbers were mostly up and down since 2007, so there was no trend in one direction.
Assistant Superintendent Ann Feldmann said even a one-year increase is a concern, particularly with the state stepping up its interest in preventing bullying and requiring increased monitoring and reporting by schools. She said central office administrators will be talking with principals on addressing the issue.
In the 2010-11 school year, the most recent available, the district had 102 junior high and high school students drop out. Of those, 29, or 28.4 percent, were black despite black students making up 16.2 percent of the district’s enrollment that school year.
The discrepancy has been a problem for years, although it’s improved from 2008-09, when black students accounted for 52 percent of all dropouts.
Last school year, black students made up 44.8 percent of students school staff referred to police, although they made up 16.6 percent of all students. Another 17.9 percent of police referrals were for Hispanic students, who represented 8.9 percent of total enrollment.
“It’s a persistent problem for us,” Feldmann said of the dropout and police referral issues.
She said administrators will be meeting next week with officials from the state’s Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning to talk about strategies that have been successful in other school districts at keeping students out of the criminal justice system.
In the past school officials have said the district had several programs aimed at helping minorities and cultural competency training for secondary school staff.