An African American student in the Killeen Independent School District is more likely to be placed in an alternative disciplinary setting than his Caucasian or Hispanic peers, according to data presented at the district’s board workshop meeting Tuesday.
During an overview of KISD’s Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP), presented by Deputy Superintendent Eric Penrod, a series of inequitable statistics emerged.
“When I look at the data, when I see 34% of our student body is African American, and I see 65% of our DAEP (Disciplinary Alternative Education Program) is African American, that is alarming to me,” Board secretary Brett Williams said Tuesday.
According to a data set called “Classroom removals by ethnicity for 2018-2019,” the last complete data set collected prior to the pandemic, Caucasian students account for 21.6% of the district’s students and 10.1% of DAEP placements.
Hispanic students make up about 30.6% of the KISD student population, according to the same data set, and 16.1% of DAEP placements.
While African American students account for 35% of the district’s students, but 65.9% of all DAEP placements during the 2018-2019 school year.
Penrod explained that the district is trying to better understand the data, while also focusing on decreasing the recidivism rate — the rate at which a former DAEP student is sent back to a DAEP campus.
“I think it’s important to acknowledge that we are truly working towards understanding the trends and association of where we are placing students according to ethnicities,” Penrod told the board.
Newest Gateway Middle and High School principal Nino Etienne told the board he and his staff are trying to “shift the way people perceive Gateway itself.”
Etienne explained how in his short time at the DAEP campus he has prioritized a culture of positivity while shifting the focus away from a student’s bad behavior to root causes of the bad behavior.
“There are a few things I focused on when I got here a year and a half ago, and that was the academics, behavior, and the social and emotional learning,” he said.
“When it came to academics, one of the first things we saw right away was that most of our students who came to Gateway were failing one or more classes. So, if students are struggling academically, they’re more likely to continue to get in trouble.”
Etienne added tutorial opportunities and interventions at the campus, while emphasizing the need for a positive mindset, he said.
“We brought a lot of positivity to the campus,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that positivity breeds positivity.”
Now, based on some of the gains seen at Gateway, KISD is implementing a system of restorative practices district-wide to try to curtail the number of students who end up in a disciplinary setting.
“People don’t change their behavior when other people yell at them, shame them, or send them away to be alone,” KISD Executive Director of Student Services Sandra Forsythe told the board. “People change their behavior when they feel heard, understood and loved. Growth and change require connection and compassion. That’s restorative practices.”
Forsythe said she has trained all district administrators in restorative practices and that she plans to train all KISD teachers in the same manner.
“We want to teach the discipline we expect,” she said. “Just like we teach the reading, math, writing and social studies; we also have to teach the other subjects — behavior and discipline. Every incident does not have to be punitive in nature.”
Williams emphasized the importance of improving the district’s DAEP program.
“Those that fall through the cracks, they usually stay in the cracks right here,” Williams said. “If we can’t cultivate those kids, then shame on us. Everybody in life will make a mistake, but it’s all about what we do once our kids make a mistake. That’s why this DAEP program is so important in how we follow-up with it.
The board secretary said the district still has “a ways to go.”
“We haven’t won the Super Bowl, but we’re on track to making the playoffs.”
Superintendent John Craft applauded Etienne for his work at the Gateway campuses and said he looked forward to continued DAEP improvements.
“As an organization as large as we are, we always continuously work to improve,” Craft said. “DAEP is the after-effect. There’s a whole lot that transpires before we even get to a hearing and a student becoming enrolled in DAEP. That’s where I’m really excited about the work, addressing it there (at a student’s home campus), before they get to Gateway.”
The DAEP agenda item was presented during the workshop Tuesday for informational purposes only. No action was taken by the board regarding the DAEP program.