Alternative program could lower expulsions in Milton
MILTON When Superintendent Bernie Nikolay arrived in Milton in fall 2008, he noticed the district had a lot more expulsions than other districts its size.
The district expelled 15 students in 2007-08 and seven students in 2008-09. It’s already expelled 10 so far this year.
He realized many districts around the state offer second chances to students threatened with expulsion. Milton could join those districts if the school board approves a policy to be introduced Monday to the policy committee and possibly the full board.
The “alternative to expulsion” program would allow some students facing expulsion to attend a pre-expulsion hearing with their parents. At the hearing, they’d be reinstated to school if they agree to meet certain conditions.
If the student meets the conditions over a specified period of time, the pre-expulsion hearing would be erased from his or record. If not, the student would face an expulsion hearing before the school board.
“I agree with giving kids a second chance,” Nikolay said. “Even though expulsions often lead to second chances, they still have that stigma on their record, and I think that’s pretty harsh in some cases.”
The program could apply to students with offenses such as being under the influence or in possession of drugs or alcohol or repeatedly refusing to obey school rules. Students facing more serious accusations, such as dealing drugs or bringing firearms to school, still would face an immediate expulsion hearing, Nikolay said.
Janesville has had a similar program for several years, said Marge Hallenbeck, director of at-risk and multicultural programs. The students return to school with conditions such as drug and alcohol counseling, closed lunch and no discipline problems. Typically, if the student meets the conditions for a semester, the expulsion is expunged.
“It’s kind of hanging over their heads while they’re (back at school), and if they’re successful, it goes away,” Hallenbeck said.
Besides following school rules, students in the Milton program could have to:
-- Submit to drug testing.
-- Participate in mentorship or extracurricular activities.
-- Attend drug and alcohol classes.
-- Participate in counseling.
-- Pay restitution.
Nikolay believes more than 80 percent of students facing expulsion would be eligible for the program. Nine of the 10 students expelled so far this year would have qualified, he said.
Besides helping students, the program could save the district money because it wouldn’t have to pay the legal fees and transcription costs involved in an expulsion hearing, Nikolay said.