School board talks rules of suspension

Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board directors spent time during their Feb. 26 meeting talking about suspensions as a disciplinary method. The subject has been bandied about since some high school students were suspended in September following a football game.

Parents complained about the suspensions, saying some of the students didn't deserve the punishment. There's concern that suspensions on a student's record would affect whether that student gets admitted to a college.

There is a proposed policy change under consideration, that would stop the district from reporting suspension s to colleges except for serious offenses, but families still must answer the question if asked on college entry forms. Board members decided to table further discussion on the proposed change until March with a possible April vote.

According to Superintendent John Sanville, 59 out of the 1,400 students at Unionville High School are currently on suspension. Of those 59, he said, 20 have no other discipline issues.

While Director Robert Sage said the investigation in September was done properly, it could still have been done better.

"We need to reconsider out-of-school suspensions as a disciplinary tool. There are lots of alternatives. I think we need to be more careful as we do investigations and remember that our principals and administrators are not trained investigators. We need more flexibility in discipline and how the standards are applied…"

Director Jeff Hellrung agreed, saying he'd like to see more discretion on the part of school administrators.

"I think our 10-day, out-of-school suspensions are way too long. We're not doing anything for students while they're sitting at home. I'd like to see more restorative justice, community service or maybe other things, so we can craft the consequences more directly to what went wrong, and use our disciplinary policy for its primary purpose, which is corrective training."

He also said he'd like to see special assignments given to students focusing on the nature of the alleged offenses.

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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