After three strikes, you’re out

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 28, 2001

Three strikes and you’re out may have a new meaning to school children this year.

The law earned that nickname for its intent of expelling students at their third serious violation of school policy.

Local officials say the law is not quite that simple, but it should get the attention of parents and students.

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&uot;(Teachers) have to be allowed to teach, and if you have a child in your class who is so disruptive you can’t even communicate with the other children in your room that child needs to be removed,&uot; said Mary Kate Garvin, assistant superintendent for the Natchez-Adams School District.

The law in question – the Mississippi School Safety Act of 2001 – says teachers may remove any child who causes a serious disruption from their classroom with the approval of a principal.

A serious matter includes such offenses as profane or threatening language toward teachers or school employees, defiance, ridicule or verbal attack of a teacher and willful deliberate and overt acts of disobedience.

After two of such offenses in a school year, districts must develop a behavior modification plan for that child.

Once that is developed, a child can be classified as &uot;habitually disruptive,&uot; in which case a student more than 13-years-old, may be subject to automatic expulsion after a due process hearing.

&uot;Everybody is entitled to due process,&uot; Garvin said.

And then it will also depend on school policy and other factors.

&uot;It depends on the situation,&uot; Garvin said. &uot;It depends on the magnitude of the disruption.&uot;

A student over 13 will also receive a functional behavior assessment after committing a second serious offense, Garvin said. This documents the child’s behavior and looks at the reasons behind the behavior. The Natchez-Adams School District already develops such plans for its problem students.

The difference with the new law is that a student can be placed on a behavior modification plan at only two offenses and be sent to a due process hearing after only three offenses, officials said.

Garvin said she supports the law because it forces districts to require intervention of students.

&uot;We are fortunate that we’re already doing that,&uot; she said.

And such plans will also help teachers with their classroom management.

&uot;For the benefit of the classroom teacher it will help us see … why this child is acting this way,&uot; Garvin said.

Superintendent Dr. Carl Davis said he wanted parents to understand that the policy was state mandated and he hopes that parents will support it.

&uot;Even with the plan we’re going to use good common sense in dealing with these children,&uot; he said.

He looks at the law as focusing on student intervention which goes along with the district’s current discipline plan. such as positive choices and in-school detention.