I wish that I had access to a sampling of HCS middle and senior high school students to ask two questions: What happens to students who are expelled? Does it matter how old they are?
For most of my life I have believed that being expelled was the same as dropping out, but with more drama. At least the outcome was the same: prospect of not getting a decent job unless the school-leaver got a GED. Family fireworks. Nothing worse, though.
I’m thinking now I was wrong. Consider this statement from the article alerting us to the HCS surveillance program, or whatever you want to call this latest outrage:
“The students were expelled and placed in alternative school and boot camp programs.”
If expelled means kicked out of school, how can a superintendent place an expelled student in an alternative school or boot camp?
What is the procedure? Pages A14 to A19 of the 2014-2015 HCS Student/Parent Handbook outline the procedure for expulsion, but there is no mention of alternative schools or boot camps. So how do students land in boot camps?
And more importantly, why are students not told that being expelled doesn’t mean they are through with school?
Why are they not told in graphic detail what they can expect their lives to be like if they land in Wardynski’s “boot camp” which I assume is the Pinnacle School’s Elk River Wilderness camp (the “teepees”) but can’t say for sure, since nowhere on the HCS website or in the handbook is there a single mention of an alternative school or boot camp.
This is what Wardynski said way back when he and the Board shut the Seldon Center and got in bed with Pinnacle:
“Those who do not comport themselves according to the regulations and rules of Pinnacle Schools will find themselves living in a teepee. And they won’t be coming back until they can behave. And if they can’t behave, they won’t be coming back to our schools.”
The contract included this:
“. . . HCS may refer students who are being removed from the program to Pinnacle School’s Elk River Treatment Program for intensive therapeutic treatment, upon such terms as may be agreed to by TPS and HCS and at the sole discretion of the Superintendent.” [emphasis added] — Pinnacle and Huntsville City Schools Contract
The prospect of being sent to the sticks far from friends and family with no phone, no internet, no privacy, and no freedom, for an indeterminate stretch could be a good deterrent to those contemplating an expulsion worthy offense. But not wanting to go through such a program would serve as a deterrent only if would-be offenders had a clue what awaited them on the other side of expulsion.
Why don’t they know? Why does the HCS keep this secret to surprise kids with after they have done wrong?
I find it sinister and sociopathic to operate thusly.
Wardynski has his fantasies of calls from the NSA alerting him to Yemenis plotting to cut off teachers’ heads.
I’ll offer a fantasy of my own.
Imagine you have had enough of high school but you are only 15. You long for your 16th birthday when you will be able to drop out. You turn 16, go to get your license, and discover that the school leaving age has been bumped up to 17 (did you know this, Reader? Meanwhile, the UK has extended voting privileges to 16-year-olds). Despair follows. You cannot take another year of standardizing testing — why bother with all that when you could be preparing and taking the GED, a test that if you perform well will mean something to you, and not the suits? But you also have heard of truant officers and you don’t want to land at the juvenile detention center. So what are your options?
Maybe, you think, if you can’t leave voluntarily, you can get them to throw you out. So you devise a full-proof scheme. You buy a stiletto at the flea market, print out a picture of your principal, pin it to your wall by jabbing the stiletto through the eye, and take out your phone. You post it with the caption, after today I will never have to look Mr. Principal in the eye ever again, on your FB wall and a bunch of your friends’, toss the stiletto in the glove compartment, and off you go, happily thinking this is the last time you will be making this trip.
You are cheerful when confronted by all the assistant principals, etc. and show no remorse because all is going according to plan.
You are expelled the next day,
And then you are informed you will be spending as long as it takes to break you or until your 17th birthday in a teepee. Now it’s W who is flying high.
And there is nothing at all you can do.
No one ever told you that expelled doesn’t mean you are free of the school system’s authority. You didn’t factor in that if you aren’t 17 you have to be educated somewhere, and Mom and Dad don’t have the resources to send you to a private school, even if one would take you, and they have been threatened with arrest and jail if they don’t sign you over, and are too shocked to figure out a workable plan — if there is such a thing.
You would never have done the stupid little charade to get kicked out if you had known that kicked out really meant losing all your freedom.
Nobody is going to believe you that all you wanted was to be free and get on with your life.
You are screwed, in other words, facing weeks, months, years (do they have to release you at 17?) in a private prison with no legal representation, wondering why no one warned you.