Guest post by Andrew Ujifusa
In an effort to ensure what it calls "due process" in expulsion cases and to make "every effort possible to help keep students in school," the district that operates or oversees 66 schools in New Orleans—including 50 charters—and other schools around the state is publishing new guidelines for expulsion and clarifying certain procedures surrounding expulsion.
Via the Associated Press, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that the Louisiana Recovery School District policies to be introduced at community meetings on July 18 and July 25 are intended to satisfy concerns that RSD schools have thrown students out of school too quickly. The RSD's announcement of the new policies, which you can read here, states that all schools in the RSD will share lists of both expellable and non-expellable offenses.
The list of the expellable offenses, along with the clarified expulsion process itself, is here. (Originally I had linked to a document from the Times-Picayune but the new link is to the expulsion process and procedures directly from the RSD.) Some of the offenses that can lead to expulsions of varying length are sexual assault, battery on a school staff member, and burglary. However, students can't be recommended for expulsion due to uniform violations or "disrespect or willful disobedience."
You can read the code of conduct for RSD students in the 2012-13 school year here, although to clarify, this code does not apply to charters.
The RSD also recently began tracking retention rates to get a better grasp on student mobility, said Jill Zimmerman, the research manager at Tulane University's Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives, which studies the RSD. She noted there have been concerns that RSD schools have transferred some students to other facilities as an unofficial form of expulsion. The new policy should help give the RSD have a uniform expulsion policy, she said.
"This is an opportunity to be more transparent and to hold schools accountable, and to ensure that there's some impartiality too," she said.
Part of the RSD's July 13 announcement shouldn't be strictly counted as news. In April, The Lens, an online public-interest news organization in New Orleans, reported that the RSD would run all expulsion hearings through its central office beginning Aug. 1, in an effort to make them more "equitable." In her story, reporter Jessica Williams notes that there have been questions about whether the actual expulsion rates in RSD schools were much higher than the reported figures, although the Times-Picayune reports that official expulsion rates reported by the charters are not remarkably high compared to other schools.