LCs, Suspensions, and Expulsions: The Appeal Process Uncovered
In June of 2007, senior Sarah Douglas was unable to graduate from Northwood High School with most her fellow classmates. A straight-A student, varsity cheerleader, and National Honor society member, Sarah was all set to go to New York University on a scholarship – if it weren’t for her loss of credit in due to absences her AP Literature class.
Although it seems so trivial, Douglas is only one of hundreds of students each year that lose credit, not because of poor performance in class, but of unexcused absences and tardies. Interestingly, 63 percent of students who lose credit for being absent are high school seniors.
“It’s our last year of high school and you just kind of get sick of it all because you’ve been through same thing for four years. Sometimes you just don’t want to be here so you decide not to,” said Seneca Valley High School senior Brigid Huamani.
According to The Montgomery County Board of Education, it takes five unexcused absences for a student to lose credit (also referred to as an LC) the class, regardless of the student’s grade in the course. Three unexcused tardies equal one unexcused absence. However, the system seems to vary in each high school. Winston Churchill High School’s policy states that four unexcused absences would cause a student to lose credit while Seneca Valley’s policy says that it takes three unexcused absences to LC a class.
“Honestly, I don’t like the LC policy in Montgomery County,” said Mrs. Suzanne Maxey, principal of Seneca Valley. “If a student is losing credit in a class they are getting an A in, I would say the class is too easy.”
The LC appeal process can be long or short, depending on the student, their grade, and their relationship with their teacher. Upon receiving an LC, the student must first appeal to the teacher of the class writing an essay explaining how the situation will change and what the student promises to do from that point on. If the teacher does not agree to appeal the LC, the student may next appeal it to the class’ department chair, then finally the principal.
The appeal process for suspensions and expulsions work similarly. The principal may only institute a suspension for a maximum of 10 days and cannot expel a student. They are able only to recommend the student to the area supervisor, in which the school is located, for expulsion.
To appeal an expulsion, the student must go to the principal, then the Montgomery County Board of Education where the student may be given a hearing. However, appeals for expulsions are very rarely given, according to Wayne Whigham, president of the Board’s Montgomery County Association of Administrative and Supervisory Personnel, or the MCAASP. “If your school recommends you for an expulsion, it’s pretty much a guarantee that you’ll be expelled,” said Whigham. “Each school is given a set of Non-Negotiable rules and that runs the school’s disciplinary system. Break them and that’s where you will be seeing a whole lot of me.”
Students with a 504 plan or an IEP go through the appeal process a bit differently. They go through a Manifestation Hearing, in where a team of educators, parents and sometimes attorneys or psychologists meet to determine whether the offense of the student was a result of a disability or not. “Put in simple terms, if you’re a blind person, and that’s your disability, and there’s a rule about walking into walls and you walk into a wall, well the fact that you are blind caused you to walk into a wall. It was a manifestation of your disability and your appeal process would go a bit differently,” explained Maxey.
In the fall of this year, it was a new beginning for Douglas as she entered New York University School of Business. “I definitely learned from the whole experience that skipping school will get to you one day, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal at the time,” said Douglas. “I won’t ever skip at NYU because I’m actually paying for my classes now.”
— Deborah Yi is a senior at Seneca Valley High School and the Editor in Chief of The Talon, SVHS School Newspaper.
She is completing a year-long internship at PHLO.