Tuesday, November 16, 2010

TOP STORY > >Late students get booted out at JHS

Leader senior staff writer

A Pulaski County Special School District official may have cut some corners when suspending about 50 Jacksonville High School students for skipping class or tardiness, he said this week.

To combat growing absenteeism and tardiness that threatened order at the school, administrator Karl Brown suspended 47 or 49 students Thursday and Friday until their parents met with him, according to Brown, director on special assignment to the school—suspensions that may not have always followed the student handbook.

All students were back in class by Monday, he said.

“It has been a challenge to get this school under control. Sometimes in the process of getting it under control, we may miss a step here or there,” Brown said.

“What I told every parent, next time their child is tardy, we will call them,” Brown said. “The (next time) they will receive a two-day suspension.”

“They weren’t following the policy or the student handbook,” Brenda Bowles said when asked about the suspensions. Bowles is assistant superintendent for equity and pupil services.

“You can’t just take everybody,” she said. “You must look at it case-by-case.”

She said teachers were adjusting to a new coding system, and that could have caused false reports of tardiness.

“The handbook calls for sending letters out to parents at the end of nine weeks for excessive absences or tardiness. First, there should be a parent conference, then detention, then a two-day in-school suspension before suspending a student for a day.”
Brown said many of the students were not first sent to detention or in-school suspension, but “due process was not violated. Due process is telling students what was wrong, then giving consequences.

“Were parents notified? That’s a good question. In some cases they were.”

“I feel like I did the right thing and the parents I spoke to were very supportive,” said Brown, a central office administrator assigned to the high school to help deal with discipline problems.

“For the most part, parents have supported the new administration here at Jacksonville,” he said. “When kids are in class, the environment is safer. We know where they are. Parents want Jacksonville High School to be safe and orderly the way it was years ago when Jim Johnson was there.

“The administration is raising the bar on attendance and tardiness,” said Superintendent Charles Hopson. 

“This sends a strong message to parents and students.  They were suspended until the parents came to talk to Mr. Brown. Today, tardiness was almost non-existent,” he said Monday.

“It caused a bit of turbulence. Parents said the rules weren’t clear.”

Speaking of Brown, Bowles said, “He’s trying to get students to class, but there’s due process. They have rights.”