When does school discipline policy discretion become an overreaching abuse?
During my eight years on the Loudoun County School Board I had always wondered why fundamental contradictions in law versus school practice never seem to get resolved. I don't remember ever hearing a candidate for office run on the platform of expelling children from school when no emergency was occurring, no imminent harm was caused and, in some cases, no intent on the part of the student to violate any rule whatsoever. Do you check the contents of your car trunk before allowing your child to drive your car to school on a weekend? The Virginia Board of Education seems to focus its guidelines for codes of conduct on "preserving a safe, non-disruptive environment for effective teaching and learning." Locally we've all heard the over-stated prologue to almost every school activity especially during budget time that "Its all about the children."
So one may ask, “Where is this contradiction?” Let me explain by asking a series of questions rather than making accusations. Can an action be disruptive if nobody even noticed it on the date it occurred? The legal system provides statutes of limitations meaning if you don't present a claim within a reasonable period of time you lose the right to make such a claim.
Should children have the same right as long as nobody was harmed, nothing was disrupted and perhaps the violation wasn't even intended? Why do parents have no right to appeal an in-school discipline? Why do parents have no right to appeal a 10-day suspension to the school board? If your child brings in a bag of oregano to school showing it to one friend making believe its something else and that friend tells the administration a month later, should school administration be warranted to put the student in a room and force a confession? Or would it be more appropriate to acknowledge a statute of limitations for punishment and apply corrective action, instead such as calling the parent asking for a meeting?
Should small children put in these situations be forced to comply with administrative directions to supply a written confession or be disciplined for failure to be cooperative, while not having access to contact their parent, and perhaps missing their bus home while this untimely interrogation is proceeding?
In a state that will bring charges against parents who fail to abide by truancy regulations, how can schools still dish out suspensions when there is no unfettered right of appeal, no time limit to redress, no immediate harm to the learning environment, no intent by the student to violate anything, no access to parental support while using coerced confessions? Consider this as you listen to budget deliberations professing EVERYTHING is in the best interests of children.
Is such discretion necessary, or is it really a continuing overreaching abuse when such discipline occurs without any simultaneous occurring event? Even the legal system doesn't punish individuals BEFORE appeals have been heard but school discipline is immediate and as the appeal proceeds the period of time the student is ostracized from the school system continues.