In Part II the discussion was the reality of having a drug and alcohol problem within our schools. If we recognize the problem we should also review and revise our approach to addressing the problem. Today the topic will be about the reaction of the Board of Education to the problem and some of the history of the Expulsion Committee action.
On paper the Board of Education has a firm policy prohibiting possession and use of drugs and alcohol by students (Section 5131.6 of the policy manual). The penalty according to the policy is “discipline up to and including expulsion”. It is unclear what discipline will be taken or what brings it to the level of expulsion. We do however; have a three year history of expulsion hearings to look at.
Since March of 2009 20 students have been expelled from Coventry schools and most of those have been for violations of Section 5131.6 of the policy manual. Every case involves a different set of circumstances and all the facts of each case are not made public but the final decision is a matter of public record.
For violations of Section 5131.6 the policy calls for a penalty that may include expulsion but that expulsion does not seem to be the same or even consistent in application. If a student is given a penalty of expulsion and expelled from all school property and school-sponsored events for a period of one (1) calendar year what does that mean to you? Is that the same as 180 school days? Let’s take a closer look at how it is applied.
A student receiving the penalty in March could actually be back in school by September. How could that be you ask? It seems more often than not most of the hearings are in the spring of the year and expulsions are given for a year but with good behavior a student will only remain out of school until the end of the current year.
If a student has a hearing say on June 7, 2009 and is expelled for a calendar year they could actually be back in the classroom in September. Now we all know how much real education is practiced in June with field trips and end of the year activities. Does this seem a bit like an early summer vacation for a penalty?
Is it a bit arbitrary and capricious if the same type of penalty is given to a student on March 10, 2009? One student would be out of school for about two weeks while the other would be out for over 3 months. Where is the consistency in the application of the policy? Every good parent knows the importance of being consistent and fair in matters of discipline is it too much to ask the same of our Board of Education?
Maybe it is time to look at alternatives such as summer school or online courses over the summer to make up educational time. Maybe we should be looking at our curriculum for better educational opportunities on drugs, alcohol and the consequences of actions? How about some more creative ideas as a penalty? Perhaps a more active role of the guidance department in the issue before and after a problem occurs would be a good idea. The discussion needs to take place.
We may never eradicate the problem of drugs and alcohol in our schools but one thing for sure like weeds in a garden if you ignore this issue it will not go away and can spread. Good students can make bad decisions, it happens it doesn’t mean they should be branded for life but it does mean it must be dealt with to discourage others, and provide a learning experience for the student.
Members of the Board of Education are human they can be good people and still make bad decisions, it happens. The question is do you pay close enough attention to what they do to know what is really going on? It is time the Board of Education members become accountable for policy and administration. It is time for a review of section 5131.6 of the policy manual and how it is enforced.
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