Behavioral incidents spiked in Salem-Keizer schools as discipline measures changed. How is the district responding?

Dec. 2022: An investigation by the Statesman Journal found that throughout the 2021-22 school year, major disciplinary incidents — including physical threats, fights, computer misuse, sexual harassment and other aggressive behaviors — increased in Salem-Keizer Public Schools by nearly 55% compared to 2018-19, the last year students were in person full time.

Simultaneously, expulsions in the 2021-22 year compared to 2018-19 decreased by 42.5% and suspensions decreased by 25.9%, according to the Statesman’s analysis, as the district implemented programs that focus more on “restorative justice.”

Referrals to police, including “police-involved” and “police-notified” incidents, also decreased.

Expulsions and suspensions spanning 2018-2022 have been given disproportionately in favor of white and Asian students, meaning they received a smaller percentage of those consequences compared to the percentage of the student body they represent, and disproportionately against other students of color.

Data so far this year show things are improving in some areas, such as fewer fights and other acts of physical aggression.

Student-related employee injuries for school staff, however, have increased substantially when compared to last fall. And the local teachers union says the district isn’t doing enough to keep teachers safe.

Read the full investigation here.

Published by Natalie Pate

Natalie Pate is a freelance journalist and author based in Salem, Oregon. She wrote about education for more than seven years at the Statesman Journal and now covers education and other topics throughout the Pacific Northwest. She is originally from Colorado and earned her B.A. in Politics and French from Willamette University.

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