The purpose of expelling students from school is to prevent them from disrupting classrooms, not to deny them an education. Fortunately the Rock Hill school district seems to understand that, and school board members are looking at ways to tweak district policy to ensure that expelled students don’t go weeks or months without instruction.
The issue arose because a number of students expelled from Rock Hill schools were caught in educational limbo. Under the process required by the district, expelled students appear before a hearing officer, a third party who is not a district employee, to determine whether the decision to expel the student should be upheld
But in some cases, this process was taking up to two months before school board members were asked to decide whether the student could be enrolled in an alternative learning program outside the standard school curriculum. By then, the student could be far behind in his or her studies, perhaps severely jeopardizing efforts to return to a regular classroom.
School board Chairman Jim Vining stated during a recent board meeting that this was simply an oversight. He said that if students threatened with expulsion are capable of going to an alternative school, they should be sent there immediately.
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Vining said not only school board members but also district administrators or their surrogates have the authority to recommend a student for the alternative program as soon as a hearing officer upholds an expulsion.
The board is expected to clarify the policy so that students no longer are kept in limbo. This is more, we think, than just a jurisdictional issue; students’ lives can be adversely affected by being kicked out of school with no educational alternatives available to them.
Being expelled is a serious matter. It not only removes students from their normal school environment and peer groups but also can carry a debilitating stigma. And the longer students are deprived of alternative schooling, the harder it is to reintroduce them to a traditional classroom.
The statistics show that students who are expelled for whatever reason are more likely to drop out or otherwise fail to graduate on time. They also are more likely to engage in criminal activities.
In some cases, acting out in the classroom can be a cry for help. Students who are lagging behind their classmates often express their frustration by disrupting the classroom. Sometimes, instead of expulsion, remedial classes can help bring troubled students up to speed.
Expulsion, however, is a necessary option. A seriously disruptive student cannot be allowed to interfere with the education of the rest of the class.
But we agree with Vining that students who are expelled need to be placed in an alternative learning environment as quickly as possible. Ordering them out of school and then simply leaving them hanging for weeks or months is asking for trouble.