OVERTURN STUDENT EXPULSION AND AMEND DISCIPLINE POLICIES

OVERTURN STUDENT EXPULSION AND AMEND DISCIPLINE POLICIES

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Megan Canty started this petition to Holy Name Catholic School

Holy Name can do better.

Liam Canty, a 2nd grader who has attended Holy Name since preschool, was recently expelled because the school “could not accommodate” his anxiety disorder, which the staff viewed as deliberate, “bad” behavior. Liam had never been formally suspended or placed on probation and no warning that expulsion was being considered was given.

Recognizing the challenges of anxiety, we sought to collaborate with the school, providing unlimited consultations with a neuropsychologist and information on evidence-based discipline techniques widely utilized in Catholic schools that effectively manage anxiety, maintain student accountability, and require significantly less time from staff. We also offered to provide a paraprofessional if other supports failed. The school temporarily employed one new behavior strategy but combined it with exclusionary discipline, which is proven to exacerbate anxiety and negative behaviors. Communication with us was inconsistent and incomplete.

Liam was expelled immediately after Christmas Break when the principal, Mrs. Brzezinski, escalated an anxiety inducing interaction using strategies contrary to professional advice. Mrs. Brzezinski refused to discuss any alternatives, including our offer to supply a paraprofessional so Liam could at least have a transition period or complete the school year. When I asked why no alternative could meet the interests of the school and Liam, Mrs. Brzezinski had no answer. She stopped communicating and refused to provide written notice of suspension or expulsion for nearly a month. Monsignor Zenz said he could not overrule the decision and the archdiocese would not respond to communication.

This decision violates the values of the Catholic Church, the mission of Holy Name Catholic School, and educational best practices. The Church states that Catholic schools should be available to all people who desire a Catholic education for their children. Holy Name’s mission espouses a belief in “the inherent goodness of all children” and purports to treat them with respect and dignity. Expulsion is a decision of last resort, appropriate only when all available alternatives have failed, not when a child is challenging or difficult to understand. Research has consistently and incontrovertibly established  that removal from class, sending students to the principal’s office, taking away recess time, suspension, and expulsion do not improve behavior and are detrimental to child development and mental health. Decades of research demonstrate the effectiveness of discipline focused on de-escalation, conflict resolution, positive behavior support, and restorative justice.

This experience has devastated Liam and our family. Liam is ashamed, confused, and hurt. His self-worth and mental health have suffered and we do not know how long it will take for him to recover from being told there is no place for him at the only school he has ever known.

Holy Name’s discipline policies lack clear procedures, are inconsistently applied, allow arbitrary decisions, and set up struggling students to fail. They provide no rubric or objective steps for the discipline process, preventing transparency and collaboration.

We ask Mrs. Brzezinski and Monsignor Zenz to engage in sincere reflection and to take the following actions:

1. Reevaluate the school discipline policy with the goal of replacing exclusionary practices with evidence-based behavioral interventions consistent with Catholic values and best practices.

2. Overturn the expulsion of Liam Canty in writing, apologize to Liam in person, and invite him to return to Holy Name if he wishes to do so.
 

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