Monday, March 1, 2004

State law does not require education for expelled students

Education Q&A

Click here to e-mail Denise Smith Amos
QUESTION: I don't understand how schools can expel students and not be required to educate them? I thought public schools had to take all students. How can schools get away with kicking out kindergarteners?

ANSWER: Like many states, Ohio's constitution affords children the right to a public education. But state law allows schools to expel students for certain offenses.

For instance, students can be expelled for at least 11 days and up to a year for such things as alcohol or drug use, sexual assault, robbery and possession of a gun.

Out-of-school suspensions also are possible for up to 10 days for fighting and disorderly conduct.

A Cincinnati Enquirer analysis revealed more than 40,000 out-of-school suspensions were issued in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky last year. Cincinnati Public Schools alone expelled students 645 times, more than any district in the state.

Five of the top 10 school districts with the highest expulsion rates were in Greater Cincinnati. More than 200 times last year, Cincinnati-area kindergartners were expelled or suspended at least a day.

In states like Kentucky and Illinois, schools are still legally required to educate these expelled children. Many states have developed alternative educations programs, which remove the kid from class but still force them to do school work in designated facilities.

Even without state mandates, Ohio funds 123 alternate education programs in 500 school systems through challenge grants. But funding for such programs has dropped from $19.8 million in the 2000-01 school year to a projected $16.5 million for the 2003-04 school year.

Most of these programs, however, cater to high school or middle school students, state officials said, including Cincinnati Public's new program, launched this month in two high schools.

In addition, Cincinnati-area educators are considering other alternatives to expulsions, said Elaine E. Fink, a Legal Aid attorney who often represents students in expulsion hearings.

The area's biggest school system is training teachers in "positive behavior interventions and supports." It emphasizes "tiered intervention," giving teachers more options to respond to infractions and ways to defuse negative behaviors before they worsen.

"If you do an effective job of implementing it schoolwide ... the results are dramatic in schools where it's been launched,'' Fink said. "CPS has put out a lot of students, but they are aggressively working to keep kids in school."

In the meantime, Fink suggests parents take expulsion hearings seriously, and even consider legal representation. Parents also should know they have a right to enter evidence, cross-examine school witnesses and argue their child's case at the hearings, Fink said.


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