Return of referred students triggers safety concerns
Fewer than 15 percent of Blair students recommended for expulsion in the last three years were actually expelled, according to MCPS investigative officer Jevoner Adams. The low expulsion rate has caused concern among administrators and parents that the return of referred students may threaten school safety.
Assistant Principal Linda Wolf worries that the practice of sending back referred students endangers student safety. "What the central office considers a threat to the school and what we consider a threat to the school are very different. When a student is sent back, it doesn't make [other] students feel safe," she said.
Blair records show that in the last three years, only 10 Blair students were expelled out of 86 who were referred. Nine were held in "abeyance," or put in an alternative program, and one was jailed; 66 returned to school.
David Dominguez, the student arrested last May for stabbing two freshmen, had been referred for expulsion prior to the incident, according to Adams. Although none of the other nine students who were expelled had been previously referred for expulsion, most of them had probably been suspended, she said.
But Adams does not believe more expulsions could have prevented their crimes. "Lots of kids may have the potential to break the policy, but until they do, we can't expel them. [Crimes] are impulsive things," she said.
Adams is confident that sending referred students back to Blair does not jeopardize the safety of the school. If a student is "clearly" a threat to the student body, the central office will not allow the student to return, Adams said.
Infractions that warrant a recommendation for expulsion at Blair include bomb threats, distribution of intoxicants, possession of firearms, violent physical attacks on a staff member and use of weapons to cause bodily harm—known to administrators as the "big five."
Adams said that proving guilt can be difficult when students are tried internally by MCPS. "If you clearly violate the big five, it's a done deal. But sometimes [the evidence] is fuzzy," she said.
Principal Phillip Gainous said information not found in the school's investigation often arises at the central office hearings, and it may sway the hearing officers to decide differently from Blair's administration. Despite the officers' tendencies to choose alternative solutions rather than expel students, Gainous supports the expulsion policy. "I can't think of a time I haven't agreed with their proposal," he said.
However, Sean Hunter, a former Blair student who left MCPS after he was caught distributing drugs, said that the policy is ineffective and unjust. He thinks the county can improve its methods of dealing with problematic students. "They should rehabilitate them instead of just sending them out," he said.
Adams said that Hunter's suggestion is exactly the intention of MCPS administrators. She believes the discipline policy is a "teaching process" that is fair to all students.
Students with difficulty are advised to go to an alternative program such as The Other Way, a school with 30 students and four staff members, according to Adams. If the student is successful in the program, he or she may later return to Blair, she said.
The return of potentially harmful students disturbs some members of the Blair community, including parent Larry Silverman. "I have the impression that there is a lot of violence at Blair and that not enough is done to stop it," he said. Although Silverman is content with the top five infractions, he feels that a greater effort should be made to separate the "habitually violent students" from the rest.
Because of the lack of predictability of students' actions, Adams said, MCPS officials reprimand students who further break the safety guidelines. "When they do come back, they come back with a contract. If they violate it, it states clearly that they will be forwarded for expulsion. There will be no ifs or ands about it," he said.
Simona Danilovska. Simona Danilovska is a junior at Blair high school and a page editor for Chips, (a.k.a. the best newspaper in the world.) She was born on March 8, which makes her proud to be a Pisces =). Her favorite activities consist of checking her horoscope … More »