SAN BERNARDINO Local school districts saw a significant decline in the number of students being suspended and expelled last year, while California officials reported "dramatic" decreases statewide.

In San Bernardino County, the number of students suspended declined 25.2 percent during the 2012-13 school year, according to a county news release, while across the state the total number of suspensions either in school or out of school dropped 14.1 percent.

The numbers recently released by the California Department of Education signify the first year data about suspensions and expulsions was made available using the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System.

"We're actively (looking) for ways to keep kids in school and deter inappropriate behavior," Barstow Unified School District superintendent Jeff Malan said. "We want to find alternatives before we suspend students or recommend them for expulsion. The best place for our youth to be is in school and we're making great efforts and strides to reduce our overall rates of suspension and expulsion. We want to offer students additional resources that will help curb any inappropriate behaviors."

Suspensions of black students countywide showed the biggest percentage decline over one year, falling 31.7 percent in 2012-13. Hispanic students were just under the overall county average decline at 25.1 percent, while white students reported a decline of 18.2 percent, according to the county news release.

For countywide expulsions, there was a 10.3-percent decrease in the number of expulsions for 2012-13 from the previous year. That compared to a one-year 12.3 percent drop statewide to 8,562 expulsions. In the county, there were 858 expulsions for 2012-13, nearly 100 fewer than the previous year.

The drops in the suspension and expulsion rates are from a combination of factors, said Earl Smith, County Schools' coordinator for Child Welfare and Attendance. At the county level, the School Attendance Review Board holds monthly meetings for district officials and law enforcement to share best practices, talk about new legislation and review data.

To provide more support to districts, county education officials also instituted a new office in Education Support Services for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, which provides a systemic approach to proactive school-wide behavior based on interventions. For the 2012-13 academic year, more than 50 schools in the High Desert have implemented PBIS at their sites.

For more information concerning data for suspensions and expulsions, visit the California Department of Education's website at

Jose Quintero contributed to this report.

Brooke Self may be reached at 760-951-6232 or You can also follow her on Twitter at @BrookeSelf.