Schools need to change handbook

Published 11:59 pm Friday, April 3, 2009

Apparently, I have broken an unwritten rule by questioning the blind faith the Andalusia City School Board has put in the superintendent to make the best decisions for our children by herself, no questions asked according to the student handbook. I want to let those who do not already know why I pushed the situation with the knife in AES like I did.

My issue is not that this happened. Things happen. It is how it was handled that is the problem. Without a zero tolerance policy (I understand why there is not one) I feel like there need to be specific discipline steps and a notification process in place for certain behavior. (For instance, a knife on school grounds and threatening to kill someone should be an immediate expulsion, while a kid wanting to brag about what he got for Christmas should be a suspension.)

I do not think these things should be left up solely to the superintendent’s discretion. When the incident happened with the knife, my daughter was directly involved. When I found out about the knife, I got out the handbook and read the punishment. I was SHOCKED. The boy literally took the knife out, opened it up and threatened to kill a girl. I assumed he would get an automatic expulsion. But, according to the handbook, Dr. McAnulty was in a position to discipline the child any way she saw fit without consulting or notifying anyone of her decision and one of her options was to send this boy back to class. Punishment was not immediate expulsion.

I went to the superintendent to ask one question: Was the boy going to be allowed back in the classroom with my daughter? I wasn’t asking specifics of his punishment. Not going back to class could mean ISS, expelled, who knows.

The response I got was what made me so vocal. Dr. McAnulty stated she could not discuss another child’s discipline with me, he had a right to an education and here is the kicker that really set me off- “I would know if the child was let back in class when my daughter came home and told me.” I told her I felt parents in that class had a right to know what happened if there was a chance the boy was going back. She disagreed – it was a privacy issue. She asked that I not tell this story and spread fear among AES. In fact, I just got a letter from Dr. McAnulty confirming once again she could not discuss the situation with me even though I put in writing a request that I be notified before it happened if the boy was going back to class. He seems to have all the rights and my daughter has none.

I hope parents get out the handbook and read the rules on discipline. If there were set rules on certain behavior this would not have gotten blown up like it did. I wouldn’t have felt like I needed to make such a big deal about this, but I did what I felt I needed to hopefully keep the boy out of class because I can’t get any reassurance from the superintendent. I’m sorry I didn’t trust her to do the right thing and keep him out of class by her attitude toward me to even be there questioning her. If indeed she really can’t even tell a parent if a probably not dangerous but definitely disturbed child is going to be allowed back into a class after something like this happens, then the discipline rules need to change so no questions need to be asked.

I plan to bring this issue to the school board. They are the only ones that can change (the policy) but I can’t get policy changed by myself. I need parents’ help, I need them to stand with me and push for a change or nothing will get done no matter how hard I yell and scream.

JoAnn Bulger

A concerned parent

Editor’s note: According to the system’s handbook, when a student “has committed a Class III offense, an administrative hearing (involving the superintendent, parent, principal (or designee), and the student) will be necessary to determine the future of the student. Generally a student will report to the administrative hearing after being placed on suspension. The hearing could result in the student’s being suspended additional days, being placed in the alternative school or expulsion from school for up to a year.” Expulsion requires board of education action.