As an administrator, one of my responsibilities is dealing with discipline issues.
Students who make poor decisions are sent to me, and I have to hand out consequences so that they can learn a lesson and think twice before making another poor decision.
One of the first students who came to my office for disciplinary reasons was a boy who I made my “project” for the year. I did my best to connect with him, and work with him to make better choices. I had been in contact with his mother, and we were working together to keep this student on the right track. I spent hours with this student, and he was making great progress.
His grades were improving. He wasn’t talking back to his teachers. He was staying away from situations where he could get in trouble. I was feeling proud and happy for him.
Then I received news that he had made a bad decision at an after-school event, and the decision was made to recommend him for expulsion.
It ruined my week, and it put a damper on a otherwise positive year.
There was nothing I could do, but wish I had been there to convince the student against making that poor decision.
I had to come to the realization that we as administrators could not allow this student to remain on our campus after what happened. For obvious reasons, I can’t disclose that information.
The questions then became, “What’s going to happen with this student?”
Here is what I am learning about the expulsion process.
First there is a larga amount of paperwork that has to be filled out and submitted to the district. It includes witness statements, past incident reports and documentation of previous interventions. The assistant principal is handling all this, and she was there into the late hours on one day. There is only a three day window to complete all the paperwork.
We have to meet with parents, and here is where I played a role. The father came in and, since he only spoke Spanish, I had to be the administrator conducting the meeting. The assistant principal was there to monitor what was said.
The next step (which hasn’t happened yet) is that the student and his parents will meet with a district representative to discuss the placement of the student. If the student “stipulates” or admits to the wrongdoing, then a decision on placement will be made there. If the parents want to fight the recommendation for expulsion, then there is a hearing before an expulsion board who will hear both sides and then make a recommendation for placement.
From the meeting we had with the student and the parent, it appears that they want to fight it. Hopefully, the three weeks for Christmas break will ease things.
Another thing I learned was that expulsion doesn’t mean immediate removal from the district.
In our district, there are a couple of other options before the student is asked to leave the district. There is an expellee program at another school, where students who have been expelled go to school together in a contained classroom for a shortened amount of time.
There is also a smaller program where students with behavior issues go to school also in a contained classroom in a shortened day. The difference is that this program has as time limit where the student may return to the home school.
The decision on where my student will spend the next few months of school will be made by the district.
I guess the toughest part for me is letting go. As a teacher, I would be the one who would write letters of support for those students being expelled. My main priority was what was in the best interest of the individual student. As an administrator, I need to look toward what is in the best interest of the school, staff, and overall atmosphere of the learning environment.
It’s a different view from the administrator’s chair.
I hope for the best for my student. I am committed to keeping in contact with him throughout the year – if he will let me.
What advice would more seasoned administrators offer for dealing with students who are being expelled? How do you deal with the conflict of doing what’s best for the student versus doing what’s best for the school? Any advice would be appreciated.