Sunday, April 24, 2011

Charters Toss 23%

Charters 'nix 23%' of kids

Boys will be boys, but nonpublic schools are quick to expel average little rascals

Last Updated: 7:32 AM, April 24, 2011
Posted: 12:10 AM, April 24, 2011
He called a classmate a "spaghetti noodle" because she was skinny. And he led the "Rubberband Gang" that launched pellets of paper across the classroom. But now sixth-grader Tyrique Royal, 12, is facing expulsion from Fahari Academy Charter School on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn -- for being a kid.
The school insists it's simply adhering to a strict "no-bullying" policy parents are well aware of, but student advocates say Tyrique's case illustrates the disparity between how charter and public schools handle difficult kids.
In the public-school system, students cannot be expelled if they are under 17, and principals cannot suspend a student for more than five consecutive days.
TROUBLED: Ty rique Royal has ADHD, and mom Ruth Hardy is fighting his expulsion from school.
Photos: Helayne Seidman
TROUBLED: Ty rique Royal has ADHD, and mom Ruth Hardy is fighting his expulsion from school.
Ty rique Royal  and mom Ruth Hardy
Ty rique Royal and mom Ruth Hardy
For serious offenses like dealing drugs or using weapons, a superintendent must intervene to suspend the student for longer. Only two students in the city have been expelled in the past three years -- and both were ousted for reaching the age of 21, a city spokeswoman said.
But charter schools set their own suspension rules and don't report expulsion data -- although experts believe thousands of difficult students are dumped every year to public schools.
A study of eight middle-school charters conducted last year by the United Federation of Teachers found the average attrition rate was 23 percent. Some of those students were held back a grade, but the numbers indicate that many students were forced to leave or were expelled, according to the report.
Tyrique's mother, Ruth Hardy, admits her son is not a model student.
Hardy, a single mother who works at a hospital, secured a spot for her son at the new charter, which is operated by the city's Department of Education, in 2009. Tyrique has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and his mom hoped the school -- which touts its rigorous academics, character education and structured environment -- would help with his impulsive behavior and concentration problems.
"He's more active than the average kid," conceded Hardy.
She told the school about her son's diagnosis, and Fahari administrators agreed to work with Tyrique. They assured her that a class of about 25 students had a special-ed teacher and a regular teacher in the classroom, she said.
But this year, Tyrique has spent more time on suspension than in the classroom.
In January, he and his friends used "sporks" in the cafeteria to fling food at each other. Tyrique was suspended for three days. He often talks and "clowns" during class, and has trouble paying attention. He roughhouses with friends and gets out of his seat without permission. He yells answers out of turn.
On March 16, the school decided to wash its hands of him.
Fahari Executive Director Catina Venning suspended Tyrique for "singing, talking and walking," and said he couldn't return to school without parental supervision, according to a letter sent home. She told Hardy to prepare for an expulsion hearing.
Tyrique hasn't been back to school since March, while his mother waits for a second hearing, when she will learn her son's fate. For now, the school provides three hours of tutoring a day at the Brooklyn Public Library.
"I feel like I'm trapped," said Hardy. "I feel a level of intimidation there. I told them he has ADHD, and that he's on medication. They knew what they were getting when they accepted him."
Venning defended her school's strict anti-bullying rules. The school has a zero-tolerance policy toward name-calling, she said, and students are not allowed to touch each other.
"Parents are supportive of these rules until they find that it was their child who broke them," she said. "Play-fighting and name calling counts as bullying at our school. You're not allowed to put your hand on another student."
But charter parents complain that school rules can get out of hand.
"Too often, charter schools are quick to exclude students for minor problems instead of giving them the behavioral support they need to stay and succeed in school," said Randi Levine, staff attorney for Advocates for Children.
But charter advocates said one disruptive student can taint the learning environment for an entire class -- and it's the school's duty to remove that student from the classroom.
"A charter has been set up to have a more disciplined and structured environment that's better for learning," said Peter Murphy, policy director for the New York Charter Schools Association. "Good school culture does not allow a persistently disruptive student to negatively affect the learning of everyone else in the class."

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