CHANGING THE STANDARD of 45 School Day suspension as punishment for first time offenders in High School
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PETITION to the Madison County Board of Education
Subject: Student Punishment
We speak on behalf of 4 students who were suspended after admitting to using marijuana on a school sponsored team trip on July 13 and have been suspended from school and any school activities since that date.
We agree that there should be consequences for student transgressions. However, in determining that punishment, careful consideration of all the facts, effects and circumstances should be weighed to ensure the punishment fits the offense and is fair.
Unintended consequences make up part of the effects and circumstances and have to be considered when implementing any policy or determining punishment.
It should not be a one size fits all because that is not how we teach. Leniency for first offenders is practiced in our schools, homes, the real world and in our court systems. Why would we punish contrary to how we teach in the most opportune time to teach. (The BOE Discipline Board stated that all consequences would be evaluated for fairness and also made clear that there were two available forms of punishment for the first offense; PACE alternative school; the other was similar to community service and/or extra assignments to be determined by the school) As stated by BOE representatives, punishment for the 4 students was based on this being the students’ first offense. The punishment handed down was 45 days at PACE alternative school.
45 school days in alternative school, the equivalent of 9 weeks, is too harsh of punishment for a nonviolent first time offender. In our criminal court system, a nonviolent first offense of this kind would have resulted in zero jail time; a suspended sentence as long as the individual did not repeat offend; drug education and possibly community service. Harsher sentences are reserved for repeat offenders.
Student life at PACE
Students are not allowed to socialize with other students. They sit in cubicles isolated. They are not allowed any time outdoors. They are not allowed on any school campus. Not allowed to participate in any school extracurricular activities. Not allowed at any school function wherever located. This will last for 9 weeks. Isolation of this kind is usually reserved for violent or sexual offenders or repeat offenders. These 4 students were neither.
Hardship on the parents, especially single parents, is real by having to meet stringent attendance requirements. Drop off 8-8:15am to 3-3:15pm. If a student is one minute late to drop off or pick up, that student is given an additional day to their sentence. Buses aren’t available. There is the financial burden. PACE Principal Shumate stated she had a student research on the added cost to parents whose student had to attend PACE and the result was an estimated $100 per week additional expense. PACE hours are 8am and 3pm which will result in lost time at work for the parent.
We do not disagree that offenses involving drugs are not to be taken lightly. There should be consequences. However, they should be fair, especially in light of nonviolent first offenses.
What these 4 students served as punishment before the 45 days sentence began.
· 20 days suspended from any and all school activities before school has started
· Fall football practices
· Expo days
· Media days
· Senior team pictures
· Fundraising event
It is apparent the additional punishment was not taken into consideration in making the decision of 45 days at PACE.
Benefits of alternative punishment such as community service, research papers, speaking to other students
Cost savings to school – less number of days equals less number of students equals less cost on school system.
Community benefit – free help at nonprofit organizations such as Manna House, Goodwill, etc. Teaches the value of helping others less fortunate; to be less self-centered; life lessons
Cleaning of roads or school grounds.
Research papers – Forces student to study and focus on the impact of their decisions. Learning event for the student.
Required speaking events to younger students provides younger students with peer to peer voice that is more relatable.
Based upon the totality of circumstances discussed above, we respectfully request the students’ punishment be amended to reflect no more than 20 days at PACE with no further requirements in light of the punishment served prior to the start of school. In the future, punishment for nonviolent first time offenders of this kind, we respectfully request that the standard of 20 days at PACE with alternative requirements described above be seriously subjectively considered.
Remember, your offices exist, as do all public positions, to represent the needs, opinions and beliefs of your constituents. That is the meaning of democracy. As evidence by the number of signatures to this petition, you can see that we feel the needs of our students are not served by the current practices in this instance. Neither are the wishes of our parents. Your decisions and the way in which you have made and defended several of them reflect poorly on all of us, from the youngest preschooler to the oldest citizen. The point of allowing the community to speak is so that you might hear it and represent it, not dictate in opposition to it.
The intention of this petition is to demonstrate that a significant portion of the community does not support the recent decision by the school board. We believe that you do what you legitimately think is right; but not always from an educational or community perspective. We encourage you to hear your community, make the right change, and prove us wrong.
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