Expulsion policy reviewed

Steamboat high school has expelled 24 students since 2001

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— The number of students expelled in the Steamboat Springs School District is minimal, but the School Board has deemed the issue important enough to re-examine the district's policy on suspension and expulsion.

The School Board would like to make it easier for an expelled student to earn his or her way back into the traditional school setting than the current policy states.

The current policy allows expulsion for a semester but no longer than a year, mirroring state statute 22-33-105.

On a first offense in Steamboat, a student typically is suspended, referred to legal authorities, required to do 20 hours of community service, enroll in a healthy choices class and meet with a private counselor.

A student returns after the suspension - no longer than 10 days - under a contract agreed upon by the superintendent, administration, the student and parents.

On a second offense, the student typically is expelled. The length of expulsion is determined on a case-by-case basis, but all expelled students are given the opportunity to attend a program where they can work on a number of classes through the school. Once the expulsion is over, the student can return to the traditional school setting.

The School Board would like to make it easier for a student to earn his or her way back into the traditional setting sooner than one semester or a year.

On March 13, a committee of administrators and parents with children affected by expulsion met to re-examine district policies S-29-Drug or Alcohol Zero Tolerance Policy and PL-17E-Suspension/Expulsion of Students at the order of the School Board.

That committee, led by Steamboat Springs High School Assistant Principal Kevin Taulman, made one minor change regarding appeals.

Previous wording said the student had to issue an appeal within five days from the superintendent's decision to expel the student. The new wording states, "Within five days after the decision of the superintendent is received by the student by certified mail, the student may appeal the decision to the Board."

The School Board wanted more changes.

"What we didn't say when we asked them to re-examine this was, 'Does the committee think there is a way for them to earn their way back in quicker than a suspension?'" board member Pat Gleason asked. "How do we get these people back in earlier?"

Taulman said the committee, which included parents, thought it was fair for a student to be expelled for a semester as long as the student was receiving academic services, which Steamboat students are eligible to receive.

"I think our policy is fair," Taulman said. "We are not zero tolerance, and I don't want to be."

The district does not allow alcohol or drugs on campus, but the district also doesn't permanently expel students for such offenses. Nearly all expulsions are related to drugs and alcohol, Taulman said.

Since the 2001-02 school year, 24 students have been expelled from the high school. Seventeen are on pace to graduate or to complete a GED program. Three transferred from the district and four dropped out.

A committee including administrators and School Board members is meeting to examine the policy.

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