School board attorney responds to Item editor’s column
I have read your article on the past week having been a tough one for children. I am responding in particular to the incident at PMHS about the senior charged with having a gun in her car. I agree wholeheartedly with your opinion about the seriousness of the situation, but do however, take issue with the statement that the disciplinary committee might be recommending her placement back in school “despite specific school policy to the contrary.”
As you know, I am not at liberty to discuss what the disciplinary committee is recommending in this case, as despite what rumor and gossip on the forum for the paper has said, this matter has not even come before the board. There have been no “secret meetings” by the board and no decisions by the board period in the matter. The matter will be, as you said in your article, coming before the board on Tuesday and it will be the first time it has been before the board.
Every thing that has happened thus far has been handled by the administration which has been making every effort, due to the apparent political interest in this particular case, to do everything by the book. It went before a disciplinary committee pursuant to school policies; the disciplinary committee had the foresight to request a psychological exam; and the administration has even called in the State Board of Education to do a review and a recommendation. Everything has been done pursuant to school policy.
Now all of the information has been compiled and it will come before the school board for the very first time on Tuesday for the administration to make a recommendation to the board. The board on Tuesday can either accept the recommendation of the administration and the disciplinary committee, modify it, or reject the recommendation entirely. They can make a decision more lenient or more severe than recommended, but NO DECISION HAS BEEN MADE.
As attorney for the board and since I have been involved in the process thus far to insure it is handled correctly, I do know what that recommendation will be. However, I do not know at this point what the board will decide. I have had conversations with several members of the board who have asked me questions about what we are required to do, and from those discussions I can tell you that there is no uniformity in the feelings of the various board members.
As opposed to what your article says, however, there is no specific policy that dictates what the board is to decide in this matter. Our policies, the state law, and the federal law all say that the administration can make a recommendation to the board which could call for anything from letting her back into school immediately to expelling her for one calendar year. The law says that each decision on Zero Tolerance matters should be made on a “case by case basis” after reviewing all the evidence and the “totality of the circumstances.” Accordingly, should the board on Tuesday night allow the student to go back to school immediately, or expell her for one calendar year, or anything in between, it will still be following board policy and the law. There is nothing in school policy, state, or federal law that says in any case involving a weapon you should do this or that only. You are required to hear each case on its merits and then make a descision for that individual case based upon a totality of the circumstances of that case.
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