School community examines the expulsion process

Schools must balance safety with the interest of the student

The Pleasanton school board, principals and vice principals from every school in the district met in June to discuss new ways to deal with the district's expulsions and suspensions.

The meeting was prompted by concerns from some board members about the number of expulsions and the information provided the board.

"Historically, the board just kind of gives its OK and doesn't really look into the decision," board member Valerie Arkin told the group. "I really look at every case on its own merit."

Arkin acknowledged that the schools have a difficult job: balancing their safety with the best interests of the student in trouble.

Generally, the school board votes unanimously on most issues, but expulsions have been the exception to that rule. In recent months, Arkin and Jamie Hintzke have voted in opposition to a few of the expulsion cases that have come before the board.

"It's pretty much the culture in the district in that you don't question the administrators," Hintzke said. "I really don't want to be a rubber stamper."

The three other board members -- Pat Kernan, Jim Ott and board president Chris Grant -- all said they approved of the policy already in place, which allows administrators to decide when and if an expulsion is warranted.

Harvest Park Principal Jim Hansen acknowledged there had been a lot of expulsion recommendations from his school this year -- five in all -- but said those recommendations only come when every other approach has been tried.

Hansen recently was named principal of Amador Valley High School.

"Our philosophy is to do everything we can to get the child to learn," Hansen said. "We make that recommendation not lightly. For me, it's a positive process for these kids."

That was echoed by other principals and vice principals at the meeting.

"I think we exercise restraint. I feel that lately, every decision we've made has been questioned," said Village High Principal Greg Giglio. "I've seen kids that re-offend and I say, 'What more can I do for this kid?'"

This year there were 33 expulsions from Pleasanton schools. Expulsions usually come with a rehabilitation plan that would allow the student to continue in the district, with a transfer to another district occurring only if the student doesn't comply with the details of the plan. While many of the expelled students are sent to Village, some are moved from Foothill High School to Amador Valley High, or in the opposite direction.

"From my perspective, it's always made sense to move a student from one school to another," said Ott. "You get them out of their environment, out of their circle of friends."

Part of the problem, Arkin said, may be that the board only sees that expulsion recommendation and doesn't know what administrators have already done with the student.

That's being addressed now. Due to requests from the board, school administrators are being asked to provide details about what steps have been taken before asking for an expulsion.

"The high schools have the same discipline plans as the middle schools, which we agreed to over the last few years," said Kevin Johnson, senior director of the district's Pupil Services. "Though you have coordinated discipline plans, when you're dealing with students, principals need to make judgments."

Incoming Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi said communication seems the key to the issue.

"It seems to me that there are some short-term things we are looking at and some long-term concepts," Ahmadi said.

The short-term plan, according to Johnson, is "to increase communication through all parties involved in the expulsion process."

Among the long-term concepts is "restorative justice," which allows for reparations by a student who acknowledges he or she has done something wrong.

"It helps things not happen again and the 're-offend rate' goes down," Hintzke said.

She said restorative justice could remove the stigma that so-called "problem" students acquire "often from the fifth grade on."

Hintzke said vice principals and counselors have expressed interest in restorative justice, but added that the district's budget crisis could make implementing it problematic.

"I definitely think there's an interest," Hintzke said. "How it would really happen or how it would look remains to be seen."

One aggravating factor that can lead to problems for students or spread the stigma of a problem student is technology -- social networking sites, texting and YouTube -- which can help word spread, often inaccurately, according to retiring Hart Middle School Principal Steve Maher.

"There's a shift in access to information," agreed Lauren Kelly, Harvest Park Middle School vice principal, adding that many parents don't realize what their child can see over the Internet or through their smart phone.

"We're seeing sexual harassment issues in seventh grade that we didn't see until the eighth or ninth grade," Kelly said. "There are naughty pictures going around."

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Like this comment
Posted by Scott Walsh
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jul 13, 2010 at 8:45 am

A simple answer to disruption in the schools are cameras. Cameras in the classroom, in hallways and other school ground areas--not bathrooms, lockerrooms or the like. They have been proven valuable. I know there are those who say absolutely not but kids and TEACHERS are assaulted every day at school. Parents would get a chance to see any incident involving their "little angel" and the school powers could weed out bad teachers. The teachers union would not like that but they should not defend those "bad apple" teachers and i come from a Union background. I would favor a test of a surveillance system. Teachers have the right to teach and kids who want to learn deserve to learn free of disruption and the bad behavior of a few. I don't care about rights being "infringed on" as i believe surveillance systems are in business and other public institutions. Safety and Learning is paramount.

God Bless a program like Village because every kid desrves a "Second" chance with Expulsion being the final intervention.

Now let the character assasination of me begin you "Community of Character" folks in name only begin.....

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Posted by MEL
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jul 13, 2010 at 11:04 am

I don't feel as if enough is done for the students. If a student doesn't fit in with this Pleasanton look, than watch out! They ship you around just to make their school look better. Our schools are too quick to judge and don't care enough about each student to do more. I am glad that at least someone is sticking up for these kids and taking a closer look to this PROBLEM. If a students needs help, it is VERY hard to get all the help they need. I hear teachers complain about how high our standards are and the fact that too much pressure is put on our kids but, since this is such a competive city it will never change.I bet half these kids showed signs of trouble before it got to this point and I bet nothing was done to help. Maybe a letter was sent home but, most these kids home's is the problem. Maybe if we hadn't cut out all the programs these kids need, we wouldn't see such a high number of expulsions. For most, this is hard to understand because our kids aren't in the thick ouf it and on the outside things seem to get done, but if you really look at these kids you will see such heartake. I know there are a few GREAT teachers who really make the difference to some kids, and for them I am thankfull.

Like this comment
Posted by Janet
a resident of Birdland
on Jul 13, 2010 at 11:09 am

we should examine the expulsion process it seems like those numbers are way too high

Like this comment
Posted by Jennifer
a resident of Ruby Hill
on Jul 13, 2010 at 11:12 am

I agree, God Bless a program like Village because every kid desrves a "Second" chance.

Like this comment
Posted by alyson
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2010 at 12:08 pm

What is wrong with Harvest Park and Principal Jim Hansen? I hope this doesn't follow him to Amador. I'm glad to see people looking at his records!

Like this comment
Posted by Richard
a resident of Bonde Ranch
on Jul 13, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Perhaps these kids do not all "need help" but instead understanding and continued guidence. The assumption is that these kids are bad, I don't think they all are. I think there is a desire to make criminals out of kids with bad judgment.

Thanks Scott for owning up to the fact that many of us used bad judgement as kids and young adults (in your other post).

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Posted by JenniferH
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jul 13, 2010 at 12:34 pm

In my opinion, the point of expulsion is that it sends a very clear message to the entire school community that certain actions or behavior will not be tolerated. Most students, however disaffected, do not want to be expelled and separated from the students and the community they know. And thus the fear of expulsion is a real deterrent.

If students are given too many "last chances" then standards of behavior and discipline are eroded across the board.

Yes, perhaps expulsion is sacrificing one for the benefit of the majority, but sometimes that has to happen. Moreover, what the student who arrives at an expulsion hearing often needs is more individual guidance and attention on a daily basis - and this is exactly what a smaller, caring community such as Village can offer. In the large high schools it's usually impossible.

I suspect that there is more to this than meets the eye. Has there been a frown of disapproval from the County over the statistics, or some aspect of the expulsion statistics? Or the State education department? Or is finance perhaps an issue here?

I really hope that PUSD does not become "soft" on expulsions.

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Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jul 13, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Jennifer -- I believe that school board members Jamie Hintzke and Valerie Arkin have been advocating for a reexamination of policy and practice on progressive discipline issues (including expulsion). Perhaps they are doing so at the encouragement of their constituents.

I am concerned that with the gradual cuts in counseling and in academic remediation, and the increased stress on teachers and principals, it could be getting harder to ensure that kids in need of guidance and understanding get some support in a timely manner -- before they hurt others, and/or themselves.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 13, 2010 at 2:12 pm

These kids don't need help, they need discipline. Sending these losers to Village may sound like a good idea as long as you live nowhere near that place. Try dealing with the constant stream of "last chance" kids trashing your yard every day when school lets out and you would not be so quick to say they "deserve" another chance. Most of them do nothing but cause trouble with their second and third and fourth, etc, etc, chances. While the lowly taxpayer continues to foot the bill.

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Posted by Michelle
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Jul 13, 2010 at 2:58 pm

The PUSD discipline policy is effective. Students don't get expelled for minor infractions. Let's not forget the families responsibility here. Parents are so quick to blame the school sites and district for their kids behavior. Where is their accountability? I agree with JenniferH, too many chances does not help rehabilitate bad behavior. There needs to be an effective consequence for bad behavior.

Yes, school standards are high, they have to be so that they can get what little funding the state has left and lets face it you wouldn't want your student to be here in Pleasanton schools if they weren't. However, so many parents push and push their kids to the point that they don't even know what being a kid is? It's not the schools setting THOSE standards.

As for the board members that feel they need to be micro managers... I say, you need to back off. The school sites have excellent administrators who all have the students best interests in mind. They are knowledgable and professional. You need to focus your energy on how you are going to solve the budget issues and keep teachers employed and student programs active. Leave the teaching and discipline to the experts!

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Posted by Richard
a resident of Bonde Ranch
on Jul 13, 2010 at 3:26 pm

I will not assume that the post from JenniferH is really the Pleasanton Mayor. She would know better than to assume that every student recommended for expulsion is guilty of what they are accused of.
That may be why some Board Members are concerned about the majority of the school board rubber stamping recommendations. It is the school boards role to review the recommendations. Judging by the quote made by one high school principles, who objects to his "decision" being questioned, there is an unhealthy lack of understanding of due process in the district.

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Posted by Jenniferhw (aka JenniferH)
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jul 13, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Goodness me. I have posted a number of times in this forum, always with this user name (my first name and initial) and it had never even occurred to me that anyone might confuse me with the mayor!

But from now on I'll change it a bit and try posting as Jenniferhw, in the hope that it will eliminate any potential confusion.

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Posted by Jenniferhw
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jul 13, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Oh and Richard, I trust that the "she would know better" was not intended to be a sly ad hominem attack, because my views on this matter do not coincide with yours. Unfortunately, that was what it sounded like.

Like this comment
Posted by Dawn
a resident of Country Fair
on Jul 13, 2010 at 5:37 pm

DEAR resident of the Downtown neighborhood,
You are the LOSER, these children are not. You can't even attach your name to this because you know your wrong, your a coward. Shame on you!

Like this comment
Posted by Tarah
a resident of Jensen Tract
on Jul 13, 2010 at 5:48 pm

whoever posted that the school sites have excellent administrators who all have the students best interests in mind is SOOOOO WRONG! They are NOT knowledgable and professional. We can't leave the teaching and discipline to the experts, it isn't working, that is why we are were we are.

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Posted by Richard
a resident of Bonde Ranch
on Jul 13, 2010 at 6:55 pm


The "she would know better" is intended to point out that she has a law background and would know better than to assume every student accused is guilty.
I am glad you cleared up any confusion because I would hate for anyone to think she would have such a judgmental attitude.

Like this comment
Posted by Rick
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Where was the explusion process when Coupe was there. Always getting rid of teachers that were gay. Why didn't the board remove him from Amador and put him somewhere he couldn't do any harm.

Like this comment
Posted by Jenniferhw
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jul 13, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Richard, I don't think there WAS actually any confusion (other than that which you attempted to create, for your own ends.) I presume that if the mayor were to post here, she would do so using her full name.

I see that yet again, you have attacked me, rather than what I wrote. I did not actually comment on the guilt or lack of it of those who are expelled, merely on expulsion itself, which I see as an ultimate deterrent and thus an important tool for discipline.

This seems to be an emotive topic for you. I would be interested to know which conditions for expulsion you believe to be most frequently used by PUSD against innocent parties and why. And what percentage of PUSD's expelled students do you consider to be innocent?

I don't propose to respond to any more of your posts here, since I'm hoping to read lots of other comments on this story, and antagonism has a tendency to discourage others from posting. I just hope that if you reply, you'll attack the points I've made rather than me. But if not, so be it.

Like this comment
Posted by April
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2010 at 8:55 am

"Yes, perhaps expulsion is sacrificing one for the benefit of the majority, but sometimes that has to happen."

Did you really say that??

Like this comment
Posted by Andrea
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jul 14, 2010 at 11:16 am

It is very clear that this is not working. We should come up with a better plan than expulsion. I think punishing kids by taking away their only chance an education seems barbaric. I am glad to see that it is being looked at closer.

Like this comment
Posted by a parent who knows
a resident of Birdland
on Jul 14, 2010 at 5:37 pm

SO many of you recommend we keep these students who are threatening other students and teachers with weapons, and students who deal drugs? These students do not belong in the public schools. They are a threat to everyone around them, and we spend too much time worried about their self-esteem, and not about the consequences of their actions! Students and parents MUST understand that when a student commits a felony, they do NOT belong in the public schools (this includes Village). They need to be removed and must be punished for their crimes. Students are NOT expelled for minor offenses. Beating the hell out of another student, and selling drugs is a felony, and these students do NOT belong in our schools. There is NO debate!!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of Southeast Pleasanton
on Jul 14, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Just from my observations over the years (I have 2 children in PUSD) I think the administrators are professional and do everything they can to help students who seem to be on the path to expulsion. The only instances that I know of where students were expelled were when they were a consistent threat to their peers. (bringing a knife to school, kicking a student in the head when they were bending down to tie their shoe and one student was punched in the locker room and knocked unconscious). In these particular instances I know that the students involved were in constant trouble before these things.
I also know that the elementary and middle school principals of these students personally worked with them (& their families) as well as school councilors. I feel for these kids but I also don't want my child being injured at school.

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Chris/Parent who knows. Exactly. I am more aware of some of the expulsions/discipline issues and the recommendations are not based on isolated instances, they are the result on-going disruptive behaviors that threaten/endanger other students and staff and this step is not taken lightly. Parent anger and threats of legal action are based on their lack on involvement and unwillingness to take responsibility for their child's upbringing/behavior. I don't want, particularly with cuts to counseling and VP's, school administration having to spend excessive amounts of time dealing, in these cases repeatedly dealing, with kids who are disruptive and who should not be in the general school population. What is of further concern is the "I don't want to rubber stamp" attitude by the board. First, can they please stop with the we are fighting the 'boys club' by forming our own club approach to their positions (girls club anyone?) and second, Ms. Arkin lists no occupation on her contact details (I'm guessing it's not in childhood behavior) and Ms. Hintzke is a School Health Planning consultant-neither one appears overly qualified to be able to debate or decide on best course of action (and why other board members have traditionally deferred to school administration on these outcomes). I also have 2 kids in Pleasanton schools and I want them to learn in a positive environment not one where they are constantly looking over their shoulders and where teachers are having to constantly deal with problem children. The bottom line is, and it's unfortunate, but there are kids who get on the wrong track, stay on the wrong track, and are continually creating an environment that disrupts the learning environment and there will always be a need to remove them for the benefit of the majority of kids who are there to learn.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jul 15, 2010 at 12:34 am

Expulsions are NOT taken lightly in the local schools and a student has to have a history or a very serious offense to have it happen to them. An expulsion is usually the end of the rope for most of these kids. They are often disruptive and sometimes a danger to have on campus. I do not think we should "overlook" the seriousness of many of the behaviors that lead to this action being taken by the administration. We do not have the resources (especially with budget cuts) to constantly deal with these students and their negative and/or illegal behavior. Parents/guardians need to play a vital role in the welfare of the student coupled with outside counseling. Teachers with large classes are not equipped to deal with the situation.

Like this comment
Posted by insider
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Jul 15, 2010 at 7:44 am

As an insider I have to say that not all expulsions have been done for serious offenses. I have seen a kid expelled for doing graffiti in a bathroom. Yes that was stupid of the kid and a misdirection but not a risk to other students. I have also seen students expelled for texting in classrooms when told not to (expelled for disobeying authority). Some of these kids have been making bad decisions but don't think they constitute an expulsion that stays on your school transcripts and eliminates the possibility of getting into some of our state universities.

I agree that if there is something that is a risk to the safety of other students that the offenders need to be removed from the environment. However in other cases, these kids have been 'lost' and now these 'stupid' actions will affect them the rest of their lives, as an expulsion on your record seriously hurts your changes in college.

Since some of the expulsions are subjective, I have seen some parents being afraid to come to school board meetings on any issue with a viewpoint that does not match the administration since if their kids were trouble-makers in school (although not dangerous), the administration could take out their frustrations of the speaker on their student. It is for this reason why the board should have final oversight on the expulsion. The board getting involved in the expulsion process is for action, via a vote, not a FYI with the decision already made and no chance of change.

With this, I believe expulsion is a necessary process but the whole picture has to be analyzed and a decision made if this is really a situation that affects safety vs. a frustrated administrator that does not want to deal with the kid or family anymore.

As for the number of counselors going down being the cause of the expulsions going up, that is simply not true. We actually have much more counselors in the high schools now than 3 or 4 years ago.

Perhaps part of the problem is we judge the success of the students by their GPA and the number of AP classes they take. We are assuming that every kid can and should go to a UC. That is not for everybody but we do not have any educational paths for vocational trades or other alternatives. A 'C' student can loose hope and act out. Perhaps we need to offer less AP classes and substitute them with other classes to meet the needs of the 'average' student. By offering all the AP classes, it puts pressure on the students to take as much as they can. I don't think our students need to be taking 6 AP classes a semester. We have the best system if you are going for a 5.0 GPA, or if you are a special needs student. But if you are a 'C' student, we do not offer as much. This is probably a different discussion however.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Birdland
on Jul 15, 2010 at 1:01 pm

These students don't start acting out in middle school and high school- what are the suspension/expulsion rates in the elementary schools?

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Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jul 15, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Parent in Birdland Neighborhood -- good question. The latest publicly available data I have seen is from 2008-2009 and can be found at this link: Web Link

It lists the number of suspensions and expulsions for each school (all the way over in the last two columns on the right). It also gives enrollment for each school. Obviously, those two numbers should both be considered when comparing schools, and I would want to look at trends over at least three, preferably five years.

I hope more data will help.

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Posted by person who knows
a resident of Birdland
on Jul 15, 2010 at 3:28 pm

NO STUDENT WOULD EVER BE EXPELLED FOR TEXTING! you have got to be kidding. Graffiti in the bathroom might be--all the middle and high schools have a graffiti problem from time to time, and if the student was found to be habitual, then yes, but not a one time offense. Don't try to fool anyone by saying kids are expelled for small offenses. It is drugs and threats! EXPELL ANY STUDENT who sells drugs or threatens another if they are felonies. Because they are kids does not mean they can get away with committing a felony!

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Posted by insider
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Jul 15, 2010 at 4:02 pm

They are expelled for 'defying authority'. The texting frustrated the administration and related to other defiances but I have seen a student expelled for this non-dangerous offense.

I agree with you that felony items should be dealt with (if it is a felony the police should be involved also). There have been some administrators who have pushed the envelope to make their jobs easier.

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Posted by LOL
a resident of Avignon
on Jul 15, 2010 at 5:38 pm

These juvenile delinquents are not the innocent victims some of you are trying to portray them. If anything, it's the majority of good kids in the community that are victimized by these rotten apples, both directly and indirectly. If their parents don't care enough to discipline them, why should we waste our precious resources on them? Toss them aside and let them rot.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of California Reflections
on Jul 15, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Insider thank you for your insight.

I am also aware of expulsions that have been forced on students that may have needed a consequence but not an expulsion, which is the most extreme consequence a district can give. If it is not a true expulsion level offence it is an abuse of power. I am glad there are board members who are doing their job and questioning this process.

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Posted by cj
a resident of Del Prado
on Jul 15, 2010 at 7:46 pm

In looking at the weblink with the data for explusions, I would question the accuracy of some of those numbers. As a teacher at one of those schools, I know the number of unexcused absences is larger than reflected. Keep in mind that reporting of this data varies from site to site, and is only as good as the person diligently, or not diligently, reporting it. In addition, don't let the descrepency between the two high schools fool you; it is apparent that AVHS perhaps is overlooking many of their absences. All one has to do is see all the truants hanging out on Main Street during school hours. In short, take all this with a grain of salt! ADministrators love to have their school shine above all the rest...

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Posted by emm
a resident of California Reflections
on Aug 2, 2010 at 2:14 pm


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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