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JCMS placed on watch list

by: Photo By Susan Matheny - Jefferson County Middle School Principal Ken Clark


   Jefferson County Middle School is one of 15 Oregon schools that have been put on a "watch list" as a potentially dangerous school, according to an announcement by State Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo last week.
   The designation is part of school safety provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, and schools are put on the list based on the number of expulsions they have for actions considered dangerous.
   The limit for those type of expulsions is five for small schools (less than 500 students), while larger schools are limited to one dangerous expulsion for every 100 students.
   Schools that go over those limits are placed on a watch list for two years. If a school stays on the watch list for three consecutive years it is defined as a "persistently dangerous school."
   "Oregon schools are safe because our educators are working hard to prevent violent behavior," Castillo said. "Today's report is more evidence that school districts take accountability and public reporting seriously, and the `watch list' helps us identify schools that need assistance and target resources to them."
   With an enrollment of 650 students, JCMS Principal Ken Clark said the middle school was only allowed to have five dangerous expulsions, but had nine -- so it was put on the watch list.
   "Last year, the expulsions were mostly for students bringing pocket knives to school and for fighting," he said.
   Of the expulsion quota, Clark admitted, "It creates an interesting situation where if you address issues, you are considered dangerous, and if you don't address issues, you're not."
   Even so, Clark said, "I will not stop calling the police (when students fight, etc.). If I did, it would make this place not safe."
   The state's complete list of dangerous expulsions includes: expulsions for weapons, violent behavior, assault, delivery of a controlled substance, sexual crimes, arson, robbery, hate or bias crimes, coercion and kidnapping.
   In the whole state, only one school, Parrish Middle School in Salem, was designated as a "persistently dangerous school" for being on the list for three years in a row. Schools that have been on the list for two years included Salem-Keizer McKay High School and South Salem High School.
   Those listed with JCMS on the first-year watch list included Eagle Point High School, Brixner Junior High and Chiloquin High (Klamath County), Medford Opportunity High School, Ontario High School, Renaissance Arts Academy and Tubman Middle School (Portland), Columbia County Education Campus (St. Helens), McNary High School and North Salem High School, North Valley High School and Illinois Valley High School (Josephine County).
   Clark said schools on the first-year watch list are required to submit an action plan to the state telling what they intend to do, and he is now in the process of writing one.
   He said the plan for JCMS includes, "Alignment with the high school's discipline policies, so students know it's the same here as there." (This is Clark's first year as the JCMS principal. Last year he was an assistant principal at MHS).
   He said JCMS has also changed its in-school suspension to include a behavioral component. As an example, he said a student caught smoking could be assigned to make anti-tobacco posters to help them understand why the school has that rule.
   "Within the consequences, there's something that relates back to what happened, so they are still being taught," Clark explained.
   As for this year, Clark said the number of suspensions are significantly down from last year, so far.
   "We don't intend to be on the watch list again. We're doing everything we can to make this the safest school we can," he stated.