Expulsion process often long and complex

Helen Le and Claire Gilliland

When two students from Bear Creek were recommended for expulsion after a fight that involved physical intervention from a teacher, sympathetic friends began trending a hashtag that soon brought additional attention to the situation and to the process itself.

The two students were allegedly fighting in the hallway near English teacher Ryan Miller’s classroom. Miller attempted to break up the fight by stepping between the students, but they continued to fight around him while also hitting Miller several times. Eventually, the two students stopped and fled. Striking a staff member or any other adult is an expellable offense.

“As far as [fighting] goes, that needs to stop,” Miller said. “They need to have enough intellect to know when to stop.”

Recently there have been multiple fights with injuries indicating their serious nature. Principal Hillary Harrell contacted the Bear Creek community on December 8 to warn students engaging in physical altercations.

“Students may face disciplinary consequences for participating and/or encouraging fighting while on campus, on the way to and from school, and while on any other school campus,” Harrell said in an announcement to students. “I want to reiterate the importance of students having a safe passage to and from school.”

Expulsion from high school is anything but simple, especially because students are legally required to receive education.

“It’s a very detailed and kind of cumbersome process, as it should be, because students are compelled to attend public education or be educated,” Harrell said.

To be recommended for expulsion by administrators, students must commit a serious offense, typically involving drugs, alcohol, or harm to another student or anyone else on campus, including physical and sexual assault and harassment.

“There [are] certain things that, it doesn’t matter what you do, I have to recommend you for expulsion as the administrator,” Harrell said.

Once administrators recommend students for expulsion, they draft a report and submit it to Bill Toledo, the district’s Director of Child Welfare and Attendance Office (CWA). Toledo then holds a mini-hearing with the student, parent(s), and administrators to determine whether or not the school has a valid case for expulsion. Hearings are held within five days as a student can only be under typical suspension for five school days; however, if the hearings and trials continue, then students may be placed under extended suspension until the case concludes.

If it is ruled in the mock hearing that the school does not have a valid case, then the student returns to school the next day. If it is ruled that the school has a valid case and the parents of the student agree that they should be expelled, then the appropriate motion is enacted.

However, if the hearing is ruled in favor of the school but the parents of the student present an argument for their child, then a hearing commences similar to that of the appeals process, complete with witnesses and testimonies. This process could continue all the way to the Supreme Court, though that is rare.

Administrators’ primary goal throughout the process remains making sure students are safely receiving their right to an education.

“[One goal is] to make sure the school that you all attend every day is as safe as possible,” Harrell said. “The second goal is to get the [expelled] student back on the right path.”

One of the students involved in the fight, who will remain anonymous, found the possible expulsion unfortunate since this was his first offense. He was under extended suspension until the case was resolved, which did not result in an expulsion.

“[I wasn’t expelled] because of my character and how [I’ve] never done anything else in the past,” the student said.

Although he is currently being educated via independent studies (home-school), he will return next semester.

“I had no intentions in [hitting the intervening teacher]… but I do respect admin, especially the principal, for even giving me the chance to come back to Bear Creek,” the student said.