The Board of Education is revising V.I. student disciplinary policy to move away from punishing students by sending them home and instead to try to directly address and correct the specific behavior, Chairwoman Nandi Sekou told the Senate Finance Committee during budget hearings Thursday.
The nine-member elected board sets policies for education, sets standards and certifies teachers, and distributes roughly $2 million in scholarships every year. It has some oversight responsibilities over the much larger Education Department, which runs the public school system.
Sekou tied the change in discipline to concern over pushing students that are having difficulty even further off course, with long-lasting impacts on the students and community.
"We have observed the persistence and growth of the "detached youth" – young people who are between the ages of 16 and 19 who are not in school or working. Similar to many urban areas in the mainland, young males of African American and Hispanic backgrounds are having great difficulties finding gainful employment," she said.
The revisions to the discipline police will put in place "restorative justice policies, to ensure that out of school suspension are not overused as a disciplinary measure against our children and more appropriate forms of discipline (are) used," Sekou said.
Fortunately dropout rates have been falling in the territory, "which is good news," Sekou said.
Sekou urged the committee to increase funding for scholarships distributed by the Board of Education and to dedicate resources for Head Start and other early childhood programs.
Sekou presented the board’s budget request of $3.04 million, of which $1.74 million is from the General Fund for government operations and $1.2 million is under the budget’s miscellaneous category to fund scholarships. This is unchanged from last year, but a 3.5 percent decrease from the 2014 budget, she said.
No votes were taken at the information gathering hearing.