punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

I did something new a few days ago

I called someone running for senator. Like a personal, one-on-one call. It kind of started like this:

You remember my entry in on what ever happens to those expelled kids? It bugged me. And as I got school minutes each month, it bugged me more. So finally, I saw a ruling where someone was expelled for theft. I don’t know what they stole. Maybe a pencil, maybe an iPod, maybe a school bus. Maybe they stole someone’s immortal soul. In any case, there was a vote of 12 yea, 2 abstaining. One of the people abstaining was Janet Oleszek, and I thought, “that’s a unique name, I’ll look her up.” She was easy to find, as she was running for senate.

So I wrote her this letter. “Dear Ms. Oleszek, you don’t know me, but I am father of a teen-aged son, I get the minutes, and I am probably one of 5 people who read them, but... what happens to those who get expelled?” It was longer than that, but went along the gist of that former blog entry. I expected a form letter, but got a personal response... with a phone number. “You ask a lot of good questions. I’d like to discuss this with you. My personal cell number is...”

Wow, really? Okay. I didn’t know what to expect, but I got a chance to call her two night ago. She was a very pleasant woman, a bit of a slow speaker (I found I inadvertently kept interrupting her because I thought she was done), but very thorough and informative. She seemed very educated, and while part of me thought, “she’s being nice to me because she’s running for office,” she kept stating how relieved and glad she was speaking to a concerned parent. “These are questions everyone should be asking! This is your right! So few parents ever get involved in the process!” she seemed to rant. I later found out she’s been campaigning for school rights, smaller classes, and is leaving the school board to pursue her political career because she thinks she can do more (she also asked, when I asked permission to quote her, to not link her senatorial campaign as she doesn’t want to have a conflict of interest until she leaves the school board).

But the gist is this: what happens? “Expelling is such a broad and poorly-defined word,” she said. “It’s an unfair label.” Apparently, they don’t expel kids and put them in JD unless they actually committed a crime they got tried for as an adult, or are a definite threat to themselves and others (murder, for example). With the exception of those very few, most kids get sent to a different school she assure me was not like JD at all. It is always a school far away from their older school, which helps break them from gang activity (a primary motivator to a lot of crime), and it’s a school where they usually have a separate building or one of those temporary classrooms that now dot all schools in our county (for those who are not from here, think tan-colored mobile home, similar to what you see on construction sites). Parents are usually made part of this process, since the kid’s not going to succeed without parental involvement, and the county sees troubled kids as a parent/student bond problem; that is, “Kids are not born bad, they just have bad environments.” Usually by this point, social workers are involved, which keeps everything legally backed.

So, if you are a student in middle school, the program is called AIM. Those who are in high school or show exceptional problems are recommended to the Summit program. Detailed explanations of the programs are in this PDF. Where they go is determined by age, offense, and various situations. Nobody is expelled and just left on the streets, and again, jail or “ju-vee” is last case-scenarios for those who don’t respond to any kind of help.

To be honest, this was a weird experience. I felt kind of grown-up, and I always feel weird when that happens. But now I at least have an answer.
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