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New rule increases weapons suspensions

<span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif; line-height: normal;">CHAMPAIGN -- That number of weapons suspensions jumped last school year for the school district. But district leaders say parents shouldn't be worried.</span>

CHAMPAIGN -- That number of weapons suspensions jumped last school year for the school district. But district leaders say parents shouldn't be worried. There's a perfectly good explanation for the spike.

The number of weapons is up because the definition of what a weapon is has changed. There were 54 weapons suspensions last school year. In 2008-2009, there were only 34.

 "That's very scary, that's very scary. Just in light of what happened just before Christmas," said parent Karen Morton.

But the jump isn't because more knives or guns are passing through these doors. The state's school code changed. Now anything used as a weapon like a pen, scissors, or stapler can get a student kicked out. The district says that's the reason for the jump. 

Outside of that number, statistics show suspensions overall are dropping. In the 08-09 school year there were 479. Last school year there were 392.

And much of that is thanks to school resource officers who make their presence felt outside and inside schools. They've been a part of the district for seven years.

"I know when I come, I look to see where the police cars are so I'm always aware, good they're here," said Morton.

Officers aren't there just to intimidate. They build relationships with students and earn their trust. That lets them learn about small arguments and prevent them from escalating.

"It's great, I would like to see even more police involvement. I think it's a real deterrent to have an officer standing there," she said.

Suspensions for disruptive behavior, disobedience, and student fights all dropped over the four year period.

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