Joe Henderson: Public school discipline? It’s a numbers game

The following banner headline was across Page 1A of the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday: Student discipline debated.

That will grab your attention for sure because everyone has an opinion about how public schools should conduct their business. And the story, which focused on Pinellas County schools, did not disappoint.

It focused on what the district calls “student referrals.” That’s a tactic used by teachers with unruly students by bringing the school principal into the situation. And as many public school teachers will tell you, they need all the help they can get.

But, all those referrals add up, and too many of them can embarrass a school system. What to do?

Why, fudge the numbers, of course.

The Times reported that while referrals in Pinellas dropped by 48 percent since 2013-14, classroom discipline in many cases hasn’t improved. It may even have gotten worse since students now know they can push the behavior envelope without fear of reprisal.

While the district was trying to create the illusion of calmer classrooms, teachers said they felt pressured to write fewer referrals. When they did write them, many said principals often ignored them.

“They say data doesn’t

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