Friday, February 8, 2008

School board expels another student

Second student given another chance

Express Staff Writer

During two formal expulsion hearings Tuesday evening, the Blaine County School District board of trustees expelled one student until March 3 and gave a second student another chance.

Why the students were considered for expulsion has not been made public. School district officials say state law and district policy precludes them from releasing specific information.

Board Clerk Cathy Zaccardi said the school board has held eight formal expulsion hearings so far this school year. In six cases the students were expelled and in the other two they were given another chance.

Most expulsions are for a full calendar year, but some students can be allowed back into school sooner if they meet a set of criteria laid down by administrators and the school board.

Tuesday's hearings were held in executive session prior to the beginning of the board's regular monthly meeting. Board members met in private again following the regular meeting to deliberate and render their decisions.

Expulsion hearings are somewhat like a court hearing, only less formal. Students and their parents typically attend to testify and school administrators are there to present evidence. Students can bring an attorney if they wish, but they rarely do.

Zaccardi said she can only release general information about expulsions. For example, about 70 percent of expulsions are for illegal drug or alcohol offenses. The remainder are mainly for violence from gang activity or for weapons possession.

Meanwhile, expulsion policy protestors continue to picket the school district office on West Bullion Street in Hailey on most Monday mornings. Dayna Barbee, an adolescent counselor and an organizer of the protests, said the protests might continue for several months.

Barbee said Thursday that students involved in violent activity or who bring weapons to school need to be removed and dealt with by police and courts. But she is adamantly opposed to expulsion of students with drug and alcohol problems.

"These are not violent kids," she said. "These are good kids that made a bad choice. Is that a reason to stop their education? No, that's a reason to get them help."

Barbee said that the school board and administrators are behind the times when it comes to programs to help students with substance-abuse problems. She said there are successful programs elsewhere that provide help to students without resorting to expulsion.

"The school board is just wrong in its policies and they do not work," Barbee said. "The more kids are put out on the street, the more the deviant peer group increases its behaviors and the more the community is at risk. Research has exhaustively been done in this area and the school district is not paying attention. I have given the research to the board, but they show no interest in getting educated."

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