MESA, Ariz. — Students at the Mesa Public Schools got into trouble more often during the 2021-2022 school year than in previous years, prompting district officials to take a deeper look into what's causing the disruptive behavior.
According to numbers recently given to the district's Governing Board, Mesa recorded 18,087 incidents involving discipline during the most recent school year, which was a significant jump from the 14,513 incidents recorded in 2018-2019.
Disciplinary infractions dropped drastically during the pandemic as Mesa's students were mainly taking their classes remotely from home. But the numbers have escalated to levels that have caught the attention of district administrators.
Superintendent Andi Fourlis said this year's numbers were the "most of any" recorded by the district in recent history.
"We have been talking about this all year long," she told the Governing Board during a special meeting last week.
Fourlis further highlighted how incidents involving aggressive behavior were the most common type of occurrence recorded during the recent school year.
Mesa additionally noticed increases in its number of incidents involving attendance violations, academic misconduct, thefts, and tobacco/substance abuse.
District officials say they're partnering with other entities to bring more mental health resources for students, as well as assembling a task force that will focus on disciplinary issues.
"More specificity is what we need moving forward so that we can design our resources to the particular challenges we are seeing," Fourlis told the school board.
With more than 56,000 students and dozens of schools, Mesa has long been considered the biggest public school district in Arizona.
But the district's enrollment dipped down during the pandemic and Mesa has had to grapple with sudden shifts in leadership over the last couple of years.
The district's superintendent abruptly resigned in 2019 after only a year into the job and an interim superintendent was appointed shortly before school campuses started shutting down in response to the pandemic.
Mesa is also trying to address a significant number of students who have been chronically absent throughout the school year.
The district's numbers show at least 38% of students missed at least 10% of their enrolled school days. Chronic absentee rates were notably highest among kindergartners and first graders.
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