Lincoln school system changes discipline process

September 19, 2003|EMILY BURTON

STANFORD - As of this week, students in the Lincoln County school system facing expulsion will not always have to undergo a school board disciplinary hearing.

School board members voted to narrow their disciplinary responsibilities to include ruling on major offenses only, such as possession of a deadly weapon, aggravated assault and drug trafficking. Other infractions, such as use of profanity or behavioral problems will be dealt with by the school's principal or be heard before a disciplinary committee.

"The board, in the past, had handled all disciplinary measures ... now they will be sent to a disciplinary committee hearing" said Dr. Teresa Wallace, superintendent. The committee is comprised of six members, including the director of pupil personnel, the assistant superintendent of Lincoln County Schools, the principal of alternative school and a dropout prevention counselor.

"The principal from the school will present a case before the disciplinary committee, and the committee will decide if the student will be sent to the alternative school or remain in that school," said Dana Osburn, principal of Lincoln County Alternative School.


If sent to the Lincoln County Alternative School, a student will attend until specific, personal goals are met.

Previously, students were being sent for assigned periods of time, such as nine weeks or a year. Now, students will be free to leave after meeting their specific goals at the alternative school. A letter to parents, notifying them of their child's assignment to alternative school, will also include the student's Individual Plan for Learning so parents can understand specific goals set by the committee for the student.

Tom Blankenship, chairman of the school board, said he felt the new policy would leave the most serious offenders to the board, but let principals discipline more of their own students, which they know better than the board.

"That principal and faculty should have ownership in the disciplinary process," said Blankenship. "I feel the policy enables the principals to have the needed authority to run their schools more effectively, yet they will be held highly accountable for their performance."

While principals will now handle more disciplinary problems in their schools, they still have the option of recommending the student be sent to the alternative school. Wallace said a transfer to the alternative school would help students keep their records clean and give them hope for graduation.

"It will appear as a change in placement and keep an expulsion off their records," said Wallace.

The alternative school has been open six years and accepts students from grades 6-12, averaging about 24 pupils. Its staff of five includes a student counselor, offering each attendee the benefit of individual counseling or group counseling.

Osburn said the measure would free the school board agenda to focus on other district issues and allow the committee to better assist each student.

"The school board has so much on their plate, I think this will help them out. It allows us to do more of a wrap-around program. We can talk to the parents and try to get a child involved in an assisting agency, another agency that can provide extra help above and beyond what we can do," said Osburn. "It allows them to see that we (the school) are wanting to pull in other agencies and do whatever we can to help the student."

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