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A local principal says the problems we chronicled in a recent article about a gap between expulsion rules at San Diego Unified and some of its charter schools have only continued, with no sign of any change.

The discipline gap has proved frustrating for Principal Michael Dodson at Bell Middle School, because troublesome students end up enrolling midyear at Bell after charters toss them out. Ordinarily, expelled students go to special alternative schools, not another regular school.

But because San Diego Unified didn’t agree that the students who were ousted from charter schools should have been expelled, they were allowed to enroll at Bell just like any other student. Dodson said he was frustrated because a mid-year influx of students with behavior problems made it difficult for Bell to build up an orderly school culture.

There was a glimmer of hope for Dodson and other frustrated principals in March: Interim Superintendent Bill Kowba had pledged to bring together charter schools and district schools to discuss the problem and how to better handle it.

Yet Dodson said no meeting has happened and the problems have continued at Bell. He wrote an angry e-mail to Kowba and other school district officials yesterday:

How many more students have to be punched in the face? How many more [gifted] or regular ed. students must disenroll because they feel unsafe on our campus? How many teachers or administrators have to be cursed at? How many more students who have come to learn have to be distracted by another student’s constant rude and disrespectful behavior?
…. We have worked very hard to change the culture of Bell and we have come a very long way. It’s very frustrating to take one step forward and two steps backwards because of circumstances that are out of our control.

I’ll keep you posted on this issue. Have these or other issues surrounding the gap between charter school and school district discipline policies cropped up at your school? Please contact me at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org.

— EMILY ALPERT

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