A NEW YEAR AND NEW FINAL STANDARDS FOR EXPULSIONS AND ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

The Connecticut State Department of Education this morning adopted new standards for expulsions and alternative education. As we discussed back in September (click here to read Part 1 & Part 2), pursuant to Public Act 17-220 the State Department of Education was tasked with developing standards for alternative education opportunities for expelled students that address the kind of instruction and number of hours to be provided to expelled students.  The new standards are far more streamlined than the original guidelines and unlike the original proposed guidelines address only what occurs after expulsion.  They still include, however, many of the costly and time consuming requirements of the original regulations.

Per the new standards, a school district has two options when providing an alternative educational opportunity for expelled students:

  1. The district may offer the student enrollment in an alternative education program operated by the district if the program is appropriate for the student under the standards set forth below; or
  2. The district may provide a different alternative educational opportunity with the standards set forth below (including through an alternative education program offered by another school district or operator).

The State Department of Education has stated a clear preference for placement at an alternative education program operated by the district or some other operator but recognizes that this will not always be appropriate. The standards set forth several “guiding principles,” one of which is the provision of a “full-time, comprehensive experience, where the learning is comparable to what the student would experience in a regular school environment,” and notes that such principles are “unlikely to be satisfied by assignment to homebound instruction.”

The standards remain reminiscent of the requirements for special education students including holding placement meetings, providing an individualized learning plan, holding quarterly meetings to discuss whether the placement continues to be appropriate and discussions of new placements if the current alternative educational opportunity is no longer beneficial to the student. Per the standards, the following is required when a decision to expel occurs:

  1. Meet with the student’s parents prior to the placement to provide information concerning potentially appropriate alternative educational opportunities;
  2. Convene a Planning and Placement Team if the student receives special education;
  3. Consult with relevant school personnel to obtain information about the student’s academic, social and behavioral history that will help inform the decision as to an appropriate alternative educational opportunity;
  4. After the parents have been informed and the appropriate school personnel have shared information about the student, all alternative educational opportunities are explored at a placement meeting. The placement decision should be made at this meeting;
  5. At the time of expulsion, the parents/students should be informed of the right to apply for early readmission (to be granted at the school district’s discretion) and any criteria for early readmission should be placed on the student’s individualized learning plan.

The standards require that each student who has been expelled has an Individualized Learning Plan (“ILP”) that appears to be modeled on the special education concept of an Individualized Education Program (“IEP”), thus giving students who may have engaged in behavior such as bringing weapons into school, a violent assault on another student or selling drugs at school far greater rights to an individualized education than almost every other student in the district. The ILP must address:

  1. The student’s academic and behavioral needs and appropriate academic and behavioral goals and interventions. This must include the student’s “core courses at the time of expulsion” and the student’s current placement or progress in the curriculum of those classes;
  2. Benchmarks to measure progress toward the goals and ultimately, progress towards graduation;
  3. Timing and method for reviewing the student’s progress and for communicating that progress to the parent or student;
  4. Provision for the timely transfer of the student’s records from the school to the alternative educational opportunity provider and from the alternative educational provider to the school; and
  5. The possibility of early readmission to the school from which the student was expelled and the early readmission criteria.

The standards further require that the district must have a “clear process that is written in policy regarding monitoring the student’s progress.” At least once per marking period the following must be considered:

  1. A review of the student’s ILP to assess progress and to make adjustments as necessary;
  2. Opportunities for early readmission;
  3. A review of the student’s ILP and alignment to the goals of his/her IEP, where applicable.

In a provision that seems to move far beyond anything required by statute, the standards suggest that “If there is a determination that placement in the current alternative educational opportunity is no longer beneficial to a student who has been expelled but it is also inappropriate to have the student return to the school from which the student was expelled, a plan for a different alternative educational opportunity should be developed following the previously outlined procedures.”

Finally, the standards require transition planning when a student is ready to return to school including:

  1. Efforts to readmit student at the semester start points at the high school level;
  2. A plan to transfer the student’s credits and record back to the home school;
  3. The student’s need for academic and other supports upon return to the home school; and
  4. Efforts to connect returning students with opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities.

Based on these new standards, districts may need to revise their policies and procedures to be compliant with the new requirements.