In D.C., expulsion is rare — except at charters

Washington D.C.charter schools expel students at far higher rates than district-run schools, reports the Washington Post.

During the 2011-12 school year, when charters enrolled 41 percent of the city’s students, they removed 227 children for discipline violations and had an expulsion rate of 72 per 10,000 students; the District school system removed three and had an expulsion rate of less than 1 per 10,000 students.

While two-thirds of charters recorded no expulsions, a charter for drop-outs expelled 30 students — nearly a third of enrollment — and another expelled 5 percent of its students.

In her senior year, Elsie Mayo was forced out of Thurgood Marshall Academy, a high-performing charter school, for coming to school drunk, talking back to a teacher and pulling a false fire alarm. She finished the year at Anacostia High School and qualified for $70,000 in scholarships to attend Simmons College in Boston, where she’s studying math and computer science. Thurgood Marshall counselors told her how to get the scholarship aid, she says in the video (below).

The D.C. school system relies heavily on long-term suspensions and involuntary transfers. It also runs alternative middle and high schools for badly behaved students. There’s talk of creating an alternative school for charter students who can’t behave in class.

Scott Pearson, executive director of the D.C. Public Charter School Board, hopes to reduce expulsions.

A few weeks after taking the charter board’s helm, Pearson released two years of discipline data. In August, the charter board published an additional year’s worth of numbers.

It already has had a “profound effect,” with charter expulsion rates dropping 25 to 30 percent so far this school year, Pearson said.

Schools are “taking a new look at their discipline procedures, and in many cases have modified their discipline procedures significantly to reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions,” he said.

However, Pearson doesn’t want charters to abandon expulsion for students who are dangerous or disruptive. Parents interviewed in the Post‘s video agree that safety is important.

About Joanne


  1. 1) I don’t understand the problem with Elsie. Is the argument that she should be allowed to come to school drunk, argue with teachers and pull fire alarms?

    2) The high expulsion rate in charters is not a bug, it is a feature. Parents enroll their kids in charters in large part because they will expel the disruptive students.

  2. From what I have read and been told, inner-city public schools, in DC and elsewhere, there are not only large numbers of actively disruptive students (not to mention dangerous ones) but there is constant “low-level” inappropriate behavior like insolence, bad language, back-talk, passive-agressiveness and general mouthiness, combined with unwillingness to put any effort into learning anything. I don’t blame parents for removing their kids from that atmosphere; I blame politicians, admins and the teachers’ unions for allowing such behavior.

  3. Foobarista says:

    Not sure why a kid that apparently cleaned up her act wasn’t a good candidate for expulsion for showing up to school drunk (thereby violating the law), likely getting into a fight with a teacher, and disrupting the entire school and local EMTs by pulling the fire alarm. Sounds like a good expulsion candidate to me, and it probably taught her – and her parents – a useful lesson.

  4. “The high expulsion rate in charters is not a bug, it is a feature. Parents enroll their kids in charters in large part because they will expel the disruptive students.”

    It’s a “feature” because public schools aren’t allowed to expel students. So when charters brag about how well they are doing, and that progress is based on their ability to kick out unproductive students, it’s evidence only that they are not held to the same standards as public schools.

    People like gahrie don’t understand that they can’t simultaneously tout charters as the solution while they dismiss the fact that they don’t play by the same rules. End public schools and go charter only, and they’ll have to play by those rules.

    • My DH and I remember the days when public schools did NOT have to tolerate misbehavior. Corporal punishment was allowed, even though a far higher percentage of parents socialized their kids appropriately before school entry, and various shaming schemes were also used. For minor mischief and brattiness, those things worked. Serious disruptive behavior, illegal or actual/potential harmful behavior and emotional problems resulted in a transfer to alternative placement, which might be secured. HS was not required, so disruptive kids were expelled. Those unwilling to work and earn passing grades were flunked out. because a HS diploma actually meant something. Night school still existed, and dropouts/flunkouts had that option, if they learned their lesson and cleaned up their acts. Such practices could be reinstated, if the political will and intestinal fortitude existed.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      There is no law of nature that says a public school has to put all students of the same age in the same room. It is physically possible to separate people with different preparation, motivation, behavior, etc. It is even possible to offer different programs to different people.

      I don’t want to see young people thrown out on the street. But I know that forcing everyone into a one-size-fits-all academic program doesn’t work. Those who would benefit are often sabotaged by those who won’t.

      We need to develop alternatives. Public schools are suffering from a self-inflicted wound.

      • Actually, district schools cannot expel students without following due process rules. If charter schools are going to take public money, they should be required to follow the same due process rules as district schools.

    • Of course charters play by the same rules as district schools – they’re both public schools in every sense of the world.

      That means the district schools can most assuredly expel students and they do so all the time. More then a few stories in this blog about kids being expelled for the stupidest of reasons make it absolutely clear that district schools can expel students.

      Expelling students for misbehavior is a feature of charters because if charters don’t expel misbehaving students, students that prevent other students from learning, the parents of the students who are trying to get an education will find a school that does ensure their kids have an orderly education environment. That puts the charter at risk of closing since charters depend on parents selecting them and bad charters, absent even worse district schools, will close.

      But if your kids are in a district school you’ll take what the district gives you because you have no say in the matter. District administrations, understanding parental impotence, treat parents and their kids accordingly.

      That’s also why teachers can quite often complain about disruptive students and receive zero support from the administration. As long as a misbehaving kid isn’t an administrators problem they’re not a problem.

    • “People like gahrie don’t understand that they can’t simultaneously tout charters as the solution while they dismiss the fact that they don’t play by the same rules.”

      You miss my point. I tout charters as the solution BECAUSE they don’t play by the same rules. The public schools are crippled by political correctness and do gooders who refuse to hold students and parents accountable.

  5. I thought pulling the fire alarm was automatic expulsion at MOST schools….

  6. Stacy in NJ says:

    Charters expel 72 per 10,000 and district schools expel 1 per 10,000. These numbers are awful. Both should be expelling in far greater numbers. Good for the charters for showing the way, though.

  7. John Thompson says:

    I’m expecting an angry response from a lot of friends, but it looks like I’m on the same page with commenters here.