Conference Questions School Expulsion Laws

1/16/2008

The Juvenile Justice Center of Suffolk University Law School and Rep. James Fagan (D-Taunton), will host a conference on the state’s hotly debated school expulsion laws, which impact the juvenile justice system, schools, and the state’s dropout rate. 

The conference, “Time to Stop & Reconsider: Are the Massachusetts’ School Expulsion Laws Really Making Massachusetts Schools Safer?” will explore the operation and impact of the state’s expulsion laws. Nine statewide organizations are co-sponsoring the conference, which will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008, at Suffolk Law School, 120 Tremont St., Boston.

Youth denied education

“I think it’s time to recognize the collateral damage from our school expulsion laws,” said Isabel Raskin, an education attorney at Suffolk Law School. “These laws send unsupervised youth out on the streets. These youth are denied education and alienated from their communities, escalating both juvenile crime and the state’s dropout rate.”

The conference will feature three panels:

  • Professor Charles Ogletree of Harvard Law School will moderate a panel focusing on the cascading effects of police in schools, schools’ use of delinquency charges to expel students, and the legal provision that permits public schools to reject expelled students from other districts. Joining him in the discussion will be the Hon. Mark Lawton and the Hon. Luis Perez, both Juvenile Court justices; Taunton High School Headmaster Matthew Matos; and Ken King, a professor of Juvenile Justice at Suffolk Law School. 
  • A panel composed of parents, police and legal advocates will discuss the educational, social and safety impacts of the laws’ current implementation.
  • Reps. Patricia Haddad (D-Somerset) and Alice Wolf (D-Cambridge) will propose alternatives to the current law in the final panel discussion.

“It’s time we look at what is happening here,” said Fagan. “In my experience, schools are using the zero-tolerance laws and expulsions as a fig leaf to cover a dirty secret: They don’t want to deal with certain kids, and it’s easier to expel them. This is not in the commonwealth’s interest, and it’s time to face it.”

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