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Academy OKs plan for expulsions

– The Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy board approved an expulsion policy Tuesday that will allow the school to expel three students.

Interim Principal Tameka Wilson told the board about challenges the charter school has faced with student discipline and policies now in place to affect change.

The expulsion policy includes a provision that would allow the school to uphold expulsions from other districts, denying entrance to students who had been expelled from another school district. The policy was presented by Jasmine Bankhead, regional academic officer with American Quality Schools, the school’s education management company.

Had this policy been in place, Wilson said, the school would have been able to reject admission of a student who had been expelled from Fort Wayne Community Schools for assaulting a teacher. Wilson said that same student kicked a teacher at Marshall Academy. The school will begin the process of expulsion for the three students now that the board approved the policy.

Wilson’s report included the number of student referrals and suspensions for October and November. Wilson has been the school’s interim principal since former Principal Nicole Chisley resigned last month to accept a position with Fort Wayne Community Schools. Wilson was previously Chisley’s assistant.

The school’s total enrollment is 103 students, 100 of whom qualify for free- or reduced-price lunches. In October, 85 referrals were handed out along with 14 suspensions. In November, the number of suspensions dropped to eight, but the number of referrals increased to 107.

Bankhead said referrals are given to students who behave in a way that teachers believe they cannot handle on their own within the classroom.

Student discipline for a referral is handled by Wilson and the school’s student services coordinator. Wilson cited chewing gum or disruptive behavior in class that would earn referrals.

Board member Will Clark asked Wilson what an acceptable number of referrals and suspensions would be.

“It should definitely be lower,” Wilson said.

Bankhead said the number of student discipline instances should be occurring with only about 5 percent of the student population. Wilson said the referrals and suspensions often involve about 20 students. Most discipline problems also occur at the middle school level, according to the report.

Bankhead said teachers are receiving support from Wilson and the student services coordinator in classroom management strategies that can be used to reduce referral numbers by helping teachers institute classroom policies that curb bad behavior.

So far in December, Wilson said the school has seen some improvement with the creation of a school store, a part of the school’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports system. The system places an emphasis on positive behavior reinforcement and setting behavior expectations.

Wilson said a major hurdle was teaching students the expectations in the school’s first year of operation.

For the school store, students earn Maverick bucks, named after the school’s mascot, for good behavior. The bucks can be used to buy items or attend special events, Wilson said.

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