When: Penn Manor School District board meeting, April 6.
What happened: Penn Manor is one of 61 Pennsylvania school districts with “significant disproportionality” in special education discipline, based on race and ethnicity, under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act policy. Theresa Kreider, district director of special services, said the district had a higher representation of Latino or Hispanic students in special education receiving in-school suspensions during the 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years. Penn Manor is the only district in Lancaster County flagged by the state for being significantly disproportionate.
Background: Hispanic or Latino students account for 15.8% of the district’s total population but 23.7% of the district’s special education population. The district has 200 Hispanic students in its special education programs. In 2017, 2018 and 2019, Hispanic students with disabilities were at least 2.5 times more likely to receive an in-school suspension up to 10 days than the general population. Any ratio over 2.5 for a specific racial group is considered significantly disproportionate.
Why it matters: Superintendent Mike Leichliter said the current procedures aren’t effective because the same few students have been disciplined multiple times. The state’s notification is intended to help guide the district in ensuring educational equity for all of its students.
Next steps: Kreider said the district plans to further examine the data to determine whether the students receiving in school suspension transferred from another district or if their disability was identified by Penn Manor. The district will also investigate the reason students were suspended and ways the district can handle discipline differently. The state will review the district’s special education policies — particularly disciplinary practices — and recommend revisions, if necessary. Additionally, 15% of the district’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act funds, approximately $165,000, must be designated to address the disproportionate measures. Revisions made to the district’s special education policies need to be publicized.
Quotable: “It’s not to lower standards,” Kreider said. “It’s how do we support all students with meeting behavioral standards?”
COVID-19: As of April 6, 408 students in the district tested positive for COVID-19. Over $200,000 worth of pandemic-related supplies were purchased. Some students experienced learning loss in the transition to remote education. In comparison to previous years, students were receiving fewer A and B letter grades, while receiving more C’s, D’s and F’s. The district will implement interventions such as summer programs and increased support to virtual students and struggling students.
Federal funding: Over the next few years, the district will receive approximately $9.8 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funding. Business Manager Chris Johnston said the money can be utilized beyond COVID-19 response. However, funding can’t fill holes in the district’s budget, and 20% must be allocated to address learning loss.
What’s next: The board will meet at 7 p.m. April 19 in the Manor Middle School auditorium, 2950 Charlestown Road. Watch remotely at youtube.com/pennmanorschools/.