punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

School Minutes

I, along with anyone else with a child who is a student in Fairfax County Schools and who signs up for the emailed newsletter, gets a copy of the latest Fairfax County School Board meeting minutes. Among a lot of really boring things, which this week seemed to be full of changing conjunctions in the wording of various documents, they usually end with something they title, “Confirmation of Action Taken in Closed Meeting,” which often contains a Board ruling on various students getting expelled. An example:

Mrs. Smith moved, and Mr. Niedzielski-Eichner seconded, to expel a student for
violation of the conditions of a probationary school assignment. The motion passed 11-0-1, with Mrs. Belter, Mr. Center, Mr. Hunt, Mrs. Kory, Mr. Moon, Mr. Niedzielski-Eichner, Mrs. Oleszek, Mrs. Smith, Mr. Stork, Mrs. Strauss, and Mrs. Wilson voting “aye”; and with Mr. Gibson abstaining.

I often pity this kind of ruling. Here, buried under a closed meeting and mentioned only briefly in the minutes, is a chapter in a child’s life that has ended. I don’t know what happened, who the student was, or what he or she ever did, or even if they were fairly judged. Some list fairly obvious ones, like this month there’s “involvement in gang activity, including an armed assault upon another student on school property,” “possession of illegal drugs on school property,” and “possession of a weapon at school.” But a lot are “violated probation,” “possession of a controlled substance,” or even, “continued absence,” which I saw a few months ago.

I wonder about the stories here. People so quickly dismiss youths as being someone else’s problems. One could believable argue that the student is a threat to other students, or are the product of poor child rearing. And I know I wouldn’t want CR to be exposed to some crazy dude with a gun who is part of some gang, and the meth makes him a little trigger-happy. And yet... I feel like we have let down these students in some way.

When I was a teen, expelling a student did little to keep them from being a threat. Hell, my dad got a letter after McLean sent me to a mental hospital saying I was banished from school grounds. Not only did I go back, I graduated, and you have to know something is messed up with communication if I could have pulled that off. I knew two kids who were fired from drug possession at Langely, which only gave them time to sell full time. They hung around the perimeters of McLean High School, in the woods near my friend Donnalee’s house, selling by the bottle after school the pep pills, ludes, and pot. The expelled kid that threatened another teacher with a lead pipe when she returned to her car one evening would also be there from time to time. Rumor was, for $50, he’d whack someone. I am not sure if that was just violence or actual murder, but I tell it like I heard it. But the truth is, expelling these kids won’t do much but make it someone else’s problem, and in my experience, it immediately made them “above the law” of the school grounds. I mean, someone could call the cops, but hardly anyone ever did, and by the time someone did, whatever deed was already done.

I don’t know what made some kid violate probation. But I bet a decent pair of parents would have prevented a lot of it. Probably some latch-key kid, maybe with abusive or neglectful parents, future criminal. I think it would be ironic that those teachers that voted to expel this child ended up being a victim of crime from them later on. I am not saying it would be deserved, or even decent karma, but... it just wears on me like a nagging flag that this was the point where we could have done something. Somebody should have gotten into this kid’s life and said, “yeah, your life sucks. But we can get you out of this shit. Stay in school not because everything you memorize is relevant to anything, but it gives you a path to a better life. Let's get a team of parents together you can rely on. You eaten anything decent recently?” Like this was the last time anyone in society saw them before they became a serial number in some future prison. What exactly did "Mr. Gibson" in the example above know to make him abstain?

It takes a village to make an idiot, I guess.

I am not saying I am right, and I am sure someone will have some decent counter argument of “society is better off without some gang kid with a gun threatening students for their iPods,” but... it just doesn’t feel right. I mean, shit. That kid has just been dumped by the only thing that might have saved them.
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