Garfield Re-2 expulsion rate among highest in Colorado
Post Independent Contributor
Garfield School District Re-2 does not take the expulsion of a student lightly, according to a district official. However, state data show that Garfield Re-2 has a higher expulsion rate than most school districts in the state, including other districts in Garfield County.
Most recently, the Garfield Re-2 board of education weighed in on five expulsions at its meeting May 26. Speaking at the meeting, Director of Districtwide Services Theresa Hamilton explained the district’s disciplinary process.
“We have a code of conduct,” Hamilton said. “We don’t have a one strike and you’re out practice. … First offense is likely going to be Friday school or a lunch detention. But habitual reoccurrences of the same kind of conduct are going to lead to escalating consequences.”
Hamilton emphasized, “Every child’s situation is looked at differently. … We’re not painting with a broad brush.”
Scott Wall, who has worked at the U.S. Postal Service branch in Rifle since 2011, disagrees. Since April, both of his sons have been expelled from Rifle High School. Wall’s youngest son was one of the expulsions considered by the board at its meeting May 26. Wall said the expulsion resulted from “a fight with a bully.”
Legally, the school district cannot discuss any specifics of the incidents because of privacy rules.
Wall believes that Re-2 is heavy-handed in its disciplinary practices and cited a March 2015 report from the Denver-based Latin American education advocacy group, Padres and Jóvenes Unidos.
The report, entitled “Ending The School to Prison Pipeline: The Colorado School Prison Report Card,” asserts that Garfield Re-2 has the 13th-highest expulsion rate in Colorado.
In the 2013-14 school year, the most recent data available, 16 students were expelled from Re-2, and 175 students were given out-of-school suspensions, according to the Colorado Department of Education.
By comparison, neighboring Roaring Fork School District, which had 810 more students than Re-2 in the fall of 2013, reported zero expulsions and less than half the number of out-of-school suspensions during the 2013-14 school year, according to CDE. To the west, Garfield School District 16, which is about one-fourth the size of Garfield Re-2, reported three expulsions and 50 out-of-school suspensions.
Garfield Re-2 also handed out 490 in-school suspensions during 2013-14, while Roaring Fork and Garfield 16, combined, totaled 146 in-school suspensions.
“We hold our kids to high expectations,” Hamilton said, adding that the numbers have improved over the years. “If you look at the (Padres and Jóvenes) report, expulsions have actually been reduced by 29 percent over the past four years.”
The Padres and Jóvenes report also lauded Garfield Re-2 for reducing student law enforcement referrals by 93.7 percent over the past four years. According to CDE, Re-2 had only one law enforcement referral during the 2013-14 school year.
In addition to Wall’s youngest son, the expulsions of three Rifle Middle School students and a Coal Ridge High School student were also on the docket for the May 26 board meeting. All five expulsions were approved without dissent.
Hamilton conceded that there is an uptick in disciplinary infractions approaching breaks in the school year. “The structure that some of these kids depend on, knowing that they’re going to get at least two meals a day, knowing that someone cares about them … they realize that those structures aren’t going to be there for a while.”
Expulsion is not permanent, and the district offers students multiple opportunities to improve their choices, Hamilton added. “There are contracts with students in order to come back. Here’s what you’re going to do to help improve your situation. Here’s what we’re going to do to help improve your situation.”
But Wall said he is not interested in any plan for redemption offered by Re-2. He hopes to enroll his sons at Glenwood Springs High School for the fall semester.
“They will never go back to the Rifle school district,” he said.
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