by Jim Boyle
Superintendent Mark Bezek and other school officials won’t comment on the specifics of disciplinary actions taken against former Rogers High School student Reid Sagehorn, but Bezek has publicly stated his support for the administration’s handling of the incident.
So what policies and procedures do district administrators follow when allegations against students surface?
Administrators say the first step is to determine if the allegation is credible. Is it simply hearsay or rumor? Is there evidence to back up what is being alleged?
Building administrators have the discretion to suspend a student for five days while they investigate alleged violations of school policy.
Each suspension action may include a readmission plan. The plan includes, where appropriate, a provision for implementing alternative educational services upon readmission, according to the district’s policy on student discipline.
But if a suspension is to be longer than five days, the school administration must present the reason for it to the district administration.
When this happens the district also investigates. They have another five days to complete their investigation and have a “pre-expulsionary hearing.” This is where school district officials meet with the parents to discuss the matter.
There are a lot of different directions the disciplinary process can go from here, with suspension being only one of them.
The two sides seek a resolution. If no resolution can be found, then the district can make a recommendation for stiffer penalties.
The student discipline policy makes it clear if a student’s total days of removal from the school exceed 10 cumulative days in a school year, the district should make reasonable attempts to convene a meeting with the student and the student’s parents or guardian before subsequently removing the student from school. This requirement is spelled out in the Minnesota Pupil Fair Dismissal Act.
The purpose of this meeting would be to determine the student’s need for assessment or other services or whether the parent or guardian should have the student assessed or diagnosed to determine whether the student needs treatment for a mental health disorder.
Grounds for dismissal, according the Pupil Fair Dismissal Act, include:
•Willful violations of any reasonable school board regulation.
•Willful conduct that significantly disrupts the rights of others to an education, the ability of school personnel to perform their duties or school-sponsored extra-curricular activities.
•Willful conduct that endangers the student, other students, surrounding persons, including school district employees, or property of the school.
In the event the school district decides it would like to expel a student, it makes a recommendation to the School Board. The authority to expel rests with the board.
Another approach that requires School Board approval is called exclusion. This prevents re-enrollment.
All expulsion and exclusion proceedings must be held in accordance with the Minnesota Pupil Fair Dimissal Act.
No expulsion or exclusion is imposed without a hearing, unless the right to a hearing is waived in writing by the student and parent or guardian.
There are a number of policies that speak to what is expected of students in an effort to prevent bullying, harassment, violence and responsible use of the school district’s electronic resources, and the discipline policy lays out what can happen after the policies are violated.
The Elk River Area School District expels about five to six students per year, but the majority of disciplinary measures do not rise to that level.