The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

November 18, 2012

County school board enforcing zero-tolerance policy

By Kim West
kwest@athensnews-courier.com

— In three separate closed hearings, the Limestone County school board voted unanimously Friday night to expel a trio of students from Clements High School during a nearly two-hour called meeting at the Central Office.

The opening and closing portions of each hearing were open to the public, while the discussion of each case was closed if the parent involved requested it.

Citing the ages of the students involved and privacy laws, Superintendent Dr. Tom Sisk declined to provide details after the meeting, including the minors’ ages, class levels and specific reasons for the expulsions.

Clements Principal Keith Hairrell presented each student’s case to board members, including board chairman Bret McGill, Marty Adams, Anthony Hilliard and Darin Russell.

The board has seven members, so each ruling had to be unanimous in order to meet quorum requirements, according to McGill.

Sisk said two of the offenses were narcotics-related, while the other was for violating the board’s weapons policy. According to the student handbook, these violations are categorized as Class III violations. Class III sanctions include: out-of-school suspension; transfer; referral to an outside agency, including the criminal justice system; a recommendation of expulsion; and restitution of property and damages where appropriate.

Sisk stated after the school board’s work session Thursday evening he would recommend zero tolerance for students who choose to bring weapons or narcotics into county schools.

While all three minors received the same recommendation from Sisk — to be expelled and remanded to the Limestone County Alternative School — the sentences varied based on several factors, including prior record, nature of the offense and the behavior of the students following the violations.

The first student, who attended the hearing with his mother, was expelled for a minimum of one year because of two prior violations. The second student, who did not appear for the hearing, received a minimum of one semester at the alternative school.

The third student, who was accompanied by his father, was assigned up to a semester of alternative school because Sisk said he “showed remorse and didn’t lie.” During the closing portion of his hearing open to the public, the student told the board he would “make (a positive) impact on other students.”

The next regular school board meeting is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4, at the Clinton Street annex.