HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - There are certain numbers you want to see go up, like test scores or graduation rates. But tonight, another set of numbers is going down, and it's good news.
For three years, school leaders have been studying the number of students who've been suspended or expelled.
They see a trend now: steep declines in the number of students getting thrown out of school.
It was just three years ago that 12,000 Henrico County students did something bad enough to get suspended from school. And for Dr. Eric Jones, the number was way too high.
"We want our students in school," said Jones.
Three years later, there are big drops. Short term suspensions down 27%, long term suspensions down 68% and expulsions down 60%.
School leaders credit mentoring programs and what they call a "culture of inclusiveness".
"Because when you feel like you're an outsider, that's when it's easier to get sidetracked and not do the right thing," said Jones.
Also, the schools are now more consistent in their messaging about things like the student dress code, and cell phone policies.
School board member Lamont Bagby says the expectations are made clear.
"So we want to make sure that they understand what the consequences are. And you can make one silly mistake, and it can cost you your education," Bagby said.
School authorities say the drop in suspension and expulsions not only benefits the school environment, because there are fewer disruptions, but also the individuals involved, because they spend more time in school.
"The less time they can be out of school through disciplinary reasons, the better off they're gonna be and the better chance they're gonna have of graduating on time," said Jones.
The criteria for suspension or expulsion include anything from a classroom disruption, to physical violence, to weapons or drugs on school property.
Schools leaders say the rules are largely the same. Instead, respect for those rules is growing.
Short term suspensions, which are less than ten days, are handled at the school level. Expulsions last an entire year and are doled out on rare occasions by the central office.