Kicking students out for good
Yesterday, Dr. Alonso sent a letter to the school system about Tuesday's explosions at Patterson High. In it, he wrote that he would recommend to the board of education, subject to due process, "the EXCLUSION of any student who is judged guilty of intentionally setting a fire or detonating an explosive.... That means that I will recommend that any student who engages in such criminal behavior will be permanently excluded from ALL of our schools."
This paragraph stopped me because, in my eight years covering education, I've always been familiar with the term expulsion, not exclusion. Expulsion means different things in different places, but in Baltimore, expelled students have the opportunity to attend an alternative school. Success Academy, the new school in North Avenue, is designed specifically for those on long-term suspension and expulsion. I hadn't realized that the system could kick a student out for good.
But evidently it can. Last academic year, 13 students -- all between the ages of 16 and 18 -- were expelled from city schools and not reinstated, according to system spokeswoman Edie House. To be eligible for exclusion, House said, a student must have endangered the safety of others and generally have a history of disciplinary problems. Those who are excluded are provided with information about GED and job training programs. And special education students are never excluded.
Many of you have probably seen Alonso's letter already, but I'm pasting it below for those who haven't.
October 15, 2008
Dear Colleagues, Families and Students,
Yesterday, school police and city police collaborated in arresting two students alleged to have set off explosives in one of our high schools. Actions that put into danger the safety of students and staff have no place in our schools.
Please be advised that I will recommend to the board, subject to due process, the EXCLUSION of any student who is judged guilty of intentionally setting a fire or detonating an explosive from the Baltimore City Public Schools. That means that I will recommend that any student who engages in such criminal behavior will be permanently excluded from ALL of our schools.
This is a painful decision, because there is nothing that I care about as much as having every single child in Baltimore City at home, learning in one of our schools. But it’s a necessary decision given the potential harm to life of such irresponsible and criminal action. Please communicate this to your communities, parents and peers.
Andres A. Alonso, Ed.D.
Chief Executive Officer