Opinion

Kirsch: School discipline measures need better adjudication

Posted 10/6/22

As an education attorney since 2006, this school year presented more student discipline cases than the past 14 combined — for general education as well as students with …

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Opinion

Kirsch: School discipline measures need better adjudication

Posted

As an education attorney since 2006, this school year presented more student discipline cases than the past 14 combined — for general education as well as students with disabilities. 

More often than not, the general education students have disabilities the school failed to identify (which is a Child Find violation, discussed in a prior piece I wrote for The Independent).  After all, kids are not “bad.” Behaviors that are inappropriate and violate code of conduct  rules indicate a reaction to the stress of returning to school after being isolated for two years.  A child who waves a box cutter or one who is defiant are in need of support and services, not removal from the structured environment of  a school environment without access to learning. 

How do I know?  I taught students with emotional disabilities for 18 years.  In Arizona, long-term suspensions and expulsions are decided by so-called “independent” hearing officers.  That’s a misnomer. With few exceptions, these individuals are selected by the school district and compensated by the school district.  Parents have no say.  Charter schools are worse as their hearing officers are often a headmaster or a former governing board member.  Can anyone say conflict of interest or bias? 

The fact is that the students most in need of school are those who are more likely to be long term suspended and expelled.  We either help these students now, or we build more jails because being out of school will teach them anything but what they need for further education, employment and independent living. 

And for those who say they disrupt the learning environment for others, provide them an alternative school that has services and supports that will help them so they can be return to their home schools.  Rather than pay hearing officers to get rid of these students, pay mental health professionals to provide in-school services.