Board faces tough decision on discipline

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 1999

It’s a decision we wouldn’t want to face. Members of the Natchez-Adams County School Board must decide whether to uphold a disciplinary committee’s decision to expel eight high school students.

The students, ranging in age from 15 to 18, were involved in gang-related fighting at Natchez High. And, according to administrators, the fights that took place at the high school on Aug. 31 were part of an ongoing dispute among rival gangs.

It’s the type of violent activity that has plagued the high school for years, and both parents and school administrators are calling for swift and sure actions to put an end to the fighting – in essence for a zero-tolerance policy on school violence.

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That approach is necessary in today’s society and it follows along with the superintendent’s mantra of holding everyone – from student to teacher – accountable for his or her actions.

And, because of the threat to the hundreds of other students at the school and the potential for escalated violence, we agree that decisive action must be taken.

Through their expulsion, these students will serve as an example to others – and ultimately this punishment may deter other students from fighting on campus – but we question what the expulsions will mean for the eight boys involved in the fights.

The younger students who are expelled for one year will be given alternative educational opportunities – but they won’t earn credits toward graduation.

The district isn’t required to provide alternative learning opportunities to the older students – the 17- and 18-year-olds – so conventional wisdom would leave them without high school diplomas, without a proper education and back on the streets.

If these students don’t value an education enough – and don’t respect the school environment enough – to follow the rules while enrolled, what real punishment do they face in being kicked out of school?

Are they really losing something they value? Or are we giving them yet another excuse for failing to succeed?

Those are weighty questions which are not easily answered, but which undeniably factor into any difficult disciplinary decision.

And we trust that the disciplinary committee has considered these issues – and dozens more – in making their recommendation.

Now, it’s in the school board’s hands.