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Suspension And Expulsion

CUMBERLAND – Cumberland County Public Schools' Central Office has been working through policy related to short-term and long-term student suspension and expulsion and the appeal process that must be followed in each circumstance.

“What we wanted to do was make sure that our practices within the school division regarding suspension and expulsion, specifically long-term suspension, matches what our policy (manual) states,” explained Superintendent Dr. Amy Griffin. “And to make sure that we have enough spelled out in regulation so that parents understand and students understand that if this happens you have to go to the discipline committee and what that discipline committee is and what that entails and what procedures they will be following so that everyone knows exactly what's going to happen.”

The changes to the policy were presented as a first read item to Cumberland's School Board this week and final approval is expected in May.

Chip Jones, assistant superintendent of finance and operations, explained the changes proposed for each process during the meeting on Monday, April 16.

According to Jones, the School Board's attorney has also signed off on the draft policy.

“He has reviewed and made comments and we have adapted to the information that he gave us,” said Jones.

Policy JGD/JGE is the specific section that refers to student suspension and expulsion, he said.

“We went through and kind of clarified to make sure that everyone understood the terminology,” offered Jones to the School Board, “and the procedures and the processes that would take place.”

Short-Term Suspensions

Concerning short-term suspensions, according to Jones, a school can only suspend up to 10 days.

The draft policy states, “A pupil may be suspended for not more than ten school days by either the school principal, any assistant principal, or, in their absence, any teacher. The principal, assistant principal, or teacher may suspend the pupil after giving the pupil oral or written notice of the charges against him, and if he denies them, an explanation of the facts as known to school personnel or opportunity to present his version of what occurred…”

“Once that's been issued…if a parent would like to appeal the decision that's been done by the assistant principal they have three days to do that to the principal of the school where the child is located,” explained Jones. “If the principal actually issues the discipline, they appeal to the Superintendent or the Superintendent's designee in the Central Office and once that decision is made…that decision is final. So, the appeal process-that would end that. And while the appeal process is taking place the suspension remains in effect.”

Long-Term Suspensions

A long-term suspension is when a school recommends that a student needs a suspension longer than 10 days but less than 365 days.

“That is where the school makes a recommendation within two days to the Central Office level,” said Jones.

“A hearing is conducted…We have a committee that acts on behalf of the School Board, which is spelled out in the regulation. We schedule a hearing within 10 days of the student being suspended from the school and the committee meets…and it goes through the formal process and then the parent has five days from the day that the decision from the discipline committee is issued to appeal to the Superintendent. The Superintendent then has five days to issue their decision…,” he added.

After this part of the process, a parent can then write an appeal letter to the School Board and the Board's decision must be issued within 30 days, according to Jones.

According to the draft policy, “The written notice of a suspension for more than ten days shall include notification of the length of suspension and shall provide information concerning the availability of community-based educational, alternative education, or intervention programs. Such notice shall also state that the student is eligible to return to regular school attention upon the expiration of the suspension or to attend an appropriate alternative education program approved by the school board during or upon the expiration of the suspension. The costs of any community-based educational, alternative education, or intervention program that is not a part of the educational program offered by the school division that the school may attend during his suspension shall be borne by the parent of the student.”

Expulsions

According to Jones, once the discipline committee determines that expulsion is the recommendation for a student the chairman would make a recommendation to Cumberland's Superintendent and then the Superintendent would review all of the information and make a decision.

“If it's determined that expulsion is needed the Superintendent would make the recommendation to the School Board and there would be a hearing before the full School Board,” advised Jones.

A portion of the policy up for approval states, “Pupils may be expelled from attendance at school after written notice to the pupil and his parent of the proposed action and the reasons therefore and of the right to a hearing before the full school board in accordance with the regulations of the school board. The regulations shall provide for the Superintendent to uphold the recommendation of expulsion or issue a lesser disciplinary action.”

According to the draft policy, the following violations of the Code of Student Conduct and School Board policy shall be grounds for expulsion: possession or use of alcohol, illegal drugs, or drug paraphernalia, selling drugs; assault or battery; arson; theft; bomb threats; use or possession of explosives; extortion, blackmail, or coercion; driving without a license on school property; malicious mischief; sexual assault; intentional injury; homicide; burglary; sex offenses; shooting; stabbing, cutting or wounding; unlawful interference with school authorities including threats; unlawful intimidation of school authorities; and other unlawful acts including being an accessory to any of these or other unlawful acts.

More For Discussion

According to Jones, if the discipline committee decides, a student can be placed in an alternative school for a semester or for the remainder of the school year when it comes to a long-term suspension.

“Or, they may have time served where they've served their 10 days and they maybe feel that that's enough consequence or they may feel that a long-term suspension for the remainer of the school year, meaning they would be eligible to return to their home school at the beginning of the following school year under a behavior contract…,” offered Jones when answering a question posed by School Board member George Dowdy about possible consequences to students that could be handed down by the discipline committee.

“If the committee feels that the behavior needs a consequence longer than a 364 day, which is a long-term suspension, that's when the recommendation would be made to the Superintendent that expulsion is needed and then the Superintendent would decide to proceed with that once they've done their investigation,” Jones continued.

Jones also currently acts as the disciplinary chairperson for Cumberland's discipline committee.

The proposed changes in the suspension and expulsion section will be brought back before the School Board in May for final approval.

According to Superintendent Griffin, anyone with questions or concerns can contact the Central Office to receive additional information related to the changes.

“I do think the changes and revisions to the policy really plan out the appeal process that parents have and it gives the steps that the parents need to follow at the school level before it comes to the Central Office level…,” advised Jones.