By Alice Doyel
“I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right, and that is good.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
We cannot allow school administrators to treat our students unjustly or to tell lies about our students just because these administrators have power.
- Washington State Education Laws WAC 392-400 must be followed.
- Educational Procedures must be adhered to as stated on the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) Discipline Page.
I am Alice Doyel, 76-year-old sole kinship caretaker for my grandson TJ. Two years ago, I was challenging the fourth and fifth unwarranted school exclusions TJ experienced in his first semester of 7th grade in Seattle Public Schools. With the aid of my Wraparound Team, we had overturned his prior three unwarranted school exclusions.
As I was preparing the documents for the administrative hearing, I heard the above quote during a program on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It fit so well with my grandson’s situation, and the situation of so many students in our middle school. Over 10 percent of the students received school exclusions, most for multiple days and for multiple times during the year. Most of these students were BIPOC at this 1,100-student school. They were in their early teens. They were trying to grow up, to figure out school, to figure out life. Instead of receiving understanding, support, and encouragement, they were missing out on learning in the classroom, getting detached from school, and flowing toward the school to prison pipeline.
I wanted the hearing officer to understand what was happening at this middle school. My introductory page read:
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right, and that is good.”
- Middle school administrators have power over students when those students are at a vulnerable time in their lives. For some of these students, the course of their lives is determined at this time. If the administrators use power that is moral, right, and good, they can enhance the lives of even their most vulnerable students.
- It is my opinion that the middle school administrators did not use their power in this manner with TJ. They continually used their power to impose punitive measures against TJ. These measures did not work to improve TJ’s behavior. These measures did the opposite, setting TJ on a predictable course of further suspensions, emergency expulsion, disconnect with the school to the point of not wanting to attend, sliding grades leading to several failures, and TJ wondering if he can finish his schooling.
- Compounding this injustice, TJ is a student with disabilities with a Section 504 Plan. He deserves additional protections under both Washington state and federal laws.
The hearing officer’s conclusions showed multiple places where the school administrators had used their power over TJ in manners contrary to Washington state laws and educational procedures. These laws and procedures are designed to protect students from administrators who use their power unjustly – in TJ’s case, in retaliation for our fighting and winning prior unwarranted school exclusions.
These are three of the conclusions from the hearing officer, in her own words:
Today I am pleased to report that TJ is currently in 9th grade, attending Cleveland STEM High School remotely. He is treated kindly and fairly by his teachers. He attends school daily, without the disruptions of school exclusions. TJ’s grades have greatly improved due to his own determination. TJ is once again attached to school, on track to graduate on time, and planning to apply for college. I am no longer fearful of TJ flowing into the Juvenile Prison System.