Drug and alcohol use leads to more expulsions from Pleasanton schools

33 students expelled during 2009-10 school year

An increase in drinking and drugs on campus has led to 33 expulsions and 604 suspensions in the Pleasanton Unified School District.

"It's the higher-order incidents -- drinking and drugs -- that we seem to be having a problem with," Foothill High School Principal John Dwyer said at a recent meeting between the school board, principals and vice principals. Dwyer said he'd seen an increase in both on-campus and off-campus incidents in the 2009-10 school year.

Ten students were expelled from Foothill this year, and another 107 were suspended. Eight students were expelled from Amador Valley High School, with 110 suspended. Horizon suspended eight students but had no expulsions, while Village expelled five students and suspended 95.

"Village has a reputation," said Greg Giglio, principal of the continuation high school. "Do (some of) our kids do drugs? Absolutely. Do they do them at school? Not so much, because we have a small campus."

Expulsions and suspensions do not only take place at the high school level. Five students were expelled from Harvest Park Middle School in the 2009-10 school year, with 51 students suspended. While none of the other middle schools expelled anyone, there were a total of 198 students suspended: 83 at Hart Middle School; 45 at Pleasanton Middle School; and 19 at Opportunity Middle School, which is one classroom at Village High for students who are not successful in a traditional middle school setting.

Current reports did not show the reasons behind the suspensions and expulsions, but data from the 2008-09 school year shows 18 expulsions and another 373 suspensions for drugs, including alcohol, and violence. That data also shows five expulsions under the category "persistently dangerous." In all, the district of 14,773 students expelled 23 and suspended 724 in 2008-09.

The PUSD discipline plan, posted on the district's website, contains information parents might not know. For example:

* Students can be questioned by police without a parent's consent or knowledge;

* Schools do not have the right to have someone sit in on the police questioning, but may ask that a staff member be present;

* Lockers, cars parked in the school's lot, backpacks and even a student may be searched by a school employee without consent.

Still, when it comes to expulsions, Pleasanton Middle School Principal John Whitney said, "We don't do them with arrogance, we do them with humility."

By comparison, in the 2008-09 school year, Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District, with a total of 13,089 students, expelled 48 and suspended 2,604. San Ramon Valley Unified School District, with 26,939 students, had 14 expulsions and 971 suspensions in 2008-09; and Fremont, a school with 32,083 students, expelled 52 and suspended 2,294 the same year.

The California Department of Education has a list of actions that require expulsion if they take place at a school. Those include possession of a firearm without prior written permission, brandishing a knife at another person, selling a controlled substance, committing or attempting to commit a sexual assault, and possession of an explosive.

The rules are more vague when it comes to less serious activities. An expulsion matrix shows that an administrator "shall recommend expulsion" if, while at school, a student causes "serious physical injury" to someone, except in self defense; possesses a "knife, explosive or other dangerous object of no reasonable use to the pupil"; possesses or uses a controlled substance "except for the first offense for possession of not more than one ... ounce of marijuana"; robbery or extortion; or assault or battery or threat of either on a school employee.

In those cases, the state Department of Education says an expulsion is expected -- but not required. In addition, it's entirely at the school administration's discretion to expel a student for a host of items, either committed at school or on the way to or from school.

Some of the discretionary expulsions are identical to ones on the prior list: injuring another student, possessing "dangerous objects," possessing drugs or alcohol, robbery or extortion, sexual harassment, bullying, hazing, theft and a list of lesser acts, from possessing tobacco and swearing, to disrupting staff, receiving stolen property, and possession or sale of drug paraphernalia.

Both the "shall expel category and the "may expel" category depend on whether prior efforts at discipline were successful and whether "the presence of the pupil causes a continuing danger to the physical safety of the pupil or others."

There's also the issue of appeals. A teacher will generally bring an issue to a vice principal, who will decide if it warrants an expulsion. If so, that vice principal will forward it to the principal, who will decide whether to send it to the district's senior director of Pupil Services, Kevin Johnson, who will review it and pass it on to the school board. However some parents will take their appeals directly to a school board member.

"We seem to have an appeals process that seems to be gaining momentum," Foothill Principal Dwyer said, adding, "We shouldn't underestimate the impact that discipline has."

There are also parents who threaten lawsuits over their expelled student.

"It's not very common, but it happens," Johnson said.

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Like this comment
Posted by cholo
a resident of another community
on Jul 13, 2010 at 1:09 pm

and another main st USA town bites the dust. welcome to my world of mexican gang activity and influence. first they ruin the kids, then they ruin the schools, then the they ruin the neighborhoods. pretty soon, there will be parts of pleasanton that you won't dare to walk through at night or even the day.

your ptown cops are not trained or prepared for this, and your city council has its head in the sand. everyone, from teachers, to school administration, to the chief of police and mayor- all are in denial about the gang activity already here and growing.

sell now and get out while you can. while your property is still worth something.

Like this comment
Posted by M.
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 13, 2010 at 8:04 pm

M. is a registered user.

Gang activity indeed is a major contributing factor in the increased availability of drugs in a a given area. Gangs do seem to be something that the city tries to pretend aren't in Pleasanton. Walk down the Arroyo Del Valle there is plenty of gang graffiti there, along with copious amounts of non gang graffiti as well.

Some of our public school employees know all about the gang that operates on Peters Ave. between Division and Rose and Anderson St. on the other side. The PPD know all about it, but apparently aren't interested in doing anything. That is the word on the street and in the schools at any rate.

In the end Cholo has a good point, it is better to proactively work on issues before they get out of hand, rather than wait for the potential far reaching negative effects are seen. Pleasanton does have a unique opportunity try and solve some of these all too common issues while they are small, if the city pulls it's collective head out of the sand.


Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 13, 2010 at 9:19 pm

the realer Cholo here...i sure hope those kids get on track and drop the drugs and alcholo...go kids...

Like this comment
Posted by Scott Walsh
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jul 13, 2010 at 9:25 pm

But we have a new $10 million Firehouse Arts Theater which is anything but Firehouse. Where is the Teen Center that Cindy was highly touting? Some kids are not athletes, some are not Thespians, wow.

Like this comment
Posted by Scott Walsh
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jul 13, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Not all gang related. Kids steal and sell their parents medicine. White kids want to be like the gangs. Talk like gang members, dress like them. It is romanticized in TV programs. Simple fact is that many parents do not know what their kids are "really" doing.

Like this comment
Posted by Scott Walsh
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jul 13, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Forgot to mention their are White Gangs too that add to the mix. No one race is forgiven. Indiviuals from all cause trouble.

Like this comment
Posted by Jane
a resident of Siena
on Jul 13, 2010 at 9:50 pm

Rather than provide kids a teen center that has been needed for years, the city is giving a city land for a sports arena for a for-profit corporation (San Jose Sharks) for $1 a year.

The city gets an A+ great job serving corporate America, but an F in serving the kids of the community.

With all the empty storefronts, the city could just lease now empty space and provide the teen center that way. Why does it always have to build someplace new?

Like this comment
Posted by M.
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 13, 2010 at 9:53 pm

M. is a registered user.


You are correct. I should have been a little more clear on the point about gangs, indeed gangs can and do contribute to availability and access to drugs, but by no means are they the only factor. Yes, kids to raid the medicine cabinet, which apparently is becoming quite popular these days, or at least is being reported about more often.

Drugs and gangs, or thug life as some called(maybe that is a dated term) are indeed romanticized, but it isn't just TV, nor any single media or social outlet.

White, purple polka dotted, indeed gangs are not limited to any one race, nor are all gangs based around one racial group. Not all gangs are large either, and not all gangs are the stereotypical gansta' or cholo (not you Cholo) image that we see all over the media.

In the end it does come down to education and prevention. Parents need to try and figure out ways to know what is going with their kids, not that this is an easy task. Yet the burden of responsibility can not lie wholly on the backs of parents, all of society should take a roll in fostering communities which are non conducive to gang and drug activity, and offer alternatives for young people which are more attractive to the young people than using or joining gangs.
That's my two cents anyway.


Like this comment
Posted by Scott Walsh
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jul 14, 2010 at 10:01 am

M, you succintly said what I was trying to say. Thanks.

Like this comment
Posted by Lynne
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 14, 2010 at 11:06 am

So many of these kids face challenges that only few can understand, abuse and not just physical, poverty, divorce, just to name a few thing's. Plus, with so many homes in foreclosure these kids are reeling from their parents stress too. It is NOT an excuse, it is a problem. Oh course these kids are going to act out, we just need to find away to help

Like this comment
Posted by LOL
a resident of Birdland
on Jul 14, 2010 at 4:03 pm

I grew up in one of the housing projects in SF where gangs, drugs, and violence is typical. The so-called "gangs" in P-town is nothing more than a bunch of bored out kids trying to act tough. It's child's play. Toss them in the slammer for a week or so will soften them up and make them all kittens.

Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 14, 2010 at 7:25 pm're a joke! Suffering kids is a serious matter.

get a life...or, take you're ignorance and stuff it!

Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2010 at 3:27 pm

As for the Sharks Ice comment, who do you think this facility is for? The kids!!! There are hundreds if not thousands of kids who will benefit greatly from an ice rink here in Pleasanton. Its not just yet another patch of grass for soccer or baseball (which are great sports too, don't get me wrong) but something different for the kids to get involved in: ice hockey, figure skating, ice dancing, curling, speed skating, etc etc. Finally we are offering other options and activities that will greatly benefit Pleasanton and the whole tri valley.
Give the kids something productive to do instead of drugs and alcohol! If you build it, they will come.

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