The school board conducted two expulsions last night.
I can't get them out of my mind.
Expulsions are quite formal affairs with attorneys, court reporter, swearing in, and careful scripting in order to meet official state statutes. We school board members are judge and jury. Expulsions are usually very difficult experiences... for the student, the parent(s), the administration and us. Nobody wants to disconnect a student from learning, from friends, from structure. One very bad choice can reap consequences that will affect a student for years. The needs of the student up for expulsion have to be weighed against the well-being of the rest of the students. At expulsions there are frequently tears on all sides. The worst, heart-sinking moment is when realization dawns and one of the parents asks, "If he's not allowed to be on the school grounds, how is he going to finish his work and take the finals?" Expulsion severs immediately. There is no longer an obligation by the school district to educate that student.
I am told by our attorney that most school districts expel and send the student on their way without much consideration or compassion. I am thankful that our school district is different. We don't live and die by "zero tolerance." Every case is unique and the demands of each expulsion are tailored to the student and the situation. We are fortunate to have an alternate classroom at the central office that most expelled students can take advantage of to keep progressing in school. The last thing we want is to present further obstacles for a struggling student. Often, if an expelled student meets certain conditions (professional therapy, clean drug screens, community service, improved behavior, letters of apology - whatever the case may be), they can return to school in a time frame proportionate to their offense. Only in rare instances have students committed so grievous an act that they have not been offered these services and the opportunity for re-admittance.
OK, I'm going to end on a positive note. Often, expulsion is the best thing that can happen to a student whose behavior is spiraling out of control. It's a wake-up call that can straighten out poor parenting and bad attitudes. Most of the time after an expulsion, the student meets expectations, comes back to school and is successful. And nothing is better than being at a graduation and handing a diploma to a student who was once expelled and yet, turned a bad experience into the learning experience of a lifetime.