Friday, January 18, 2008

Expulsion is not the answer

With all due respect to the school board, I personally think 10 kids expelled and not in school are 10 kids too many for our community. Where do those children go to find new friends to break away from their deviant peer group that, by the way, are still going to school? What do those children do all day after the morning of sitting in front of a computer and taking Internet classes? How truly successful is the expulsion policy with supporting these children back into high school? How many of the children who have entered the "pre-expulsion stage" actually stay in high school and do not decide to drop out?

My concern is focused on a couple of areas: 1) Punitive measures, such as expulsion, have been proven to aggravate deviant behavior by creating a sub class of children in the community who have no opportunity of continued emotional or educational growth; 2) The current policy dis-empowers the families and offers no community or school support for these children to move forward, not even tracking the children to offer assistance if needed; 3) By not allowing the children to engage in supervised pro-social activities on school grounds, which includes the community campus and athletic fields, they are not able to nurture new peer relationships or utilize peer mentors necessary to move them forward from the negative label their behavior has given them in the school district. Our policy sets these children and their families up for failure, not for success.

I challenge the community to identify how the expelled children are any different from the rest of the children in the community. I have had personal experience with the children and their families after expulsion and am struck by the powerless feelings the parents have in helping their children move forward. These children are not violent criminals who are bringing weapons to school, they are just children who are making bad choices and getting caught. These are not neglectful parents, they are parents working hard to raise an adolescent in today's challenging social and educational environment. Twin Falls provides a number of educational, financial, and pro-social opportunities for their children who are expelled, complete with a case manager to assist and support the child during the expulsion period. Oregon's policy reflects their commitment to the child and the family by reporting that even if the child is expelled, they are still their children.

I am hoping by bringing this issue of "throw away kids" before the community, it will open dialogue on proven and researched alternatives to the expulsion policy that are proactive instead of reactive. Every time a child is expelled it not only puts the child at higher risk but the community as well. As with any policy, there is a review period and a re-evaluation process should the policy be deemed inadequate. Maybe it is time to go back and review the expulsion policy, discuss what works with other states and districts, and move forward from the negative and damaging child, family and community repercussions of our current antiquated expulsion policy.

Dayna Barbee

Adolescent counselor


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