I am a member of the disciplinary Hearing Authority of our school along with three other teachers, three students, two parents, one non-teaching member of staff, the principal and his deputy.
Fortunately we rarely meet for a formal hearing; informal hearings are more frequent. Yesterday was an exception.
The student in question was a nineteen year old boy with a record of frequent absences and tardiness. When he was present, he was either disturbing lessons or half-asleep. He was also a low-achiver and was older than most of peers due to a year he had repeated and a change in his curriculum – he had switched a sceintific course to a more office-orientated one.
This was only part of the story: the reason he had been summoned to this hearing yesterday was aggressive and threatening attitude towards a member of staff.
It took us about an hour to listen to the various reports which had been written about him since September. Several people were asked to testify about his behavior. The student and his family were present throughout the procedure and were allowed to intervene at the end. Then they were asked to leave the room and we debated the case.
Most people (including myself) voted in favor of his being expelled permanently, for various reasons. One of them being the repeated aggressive behavior: the worst incident was unfortunately not the only violent episode.
This was not as easy a decision as it may seem. It is always hard to decide to get rid of a student however disturbing he might be. In this particular case, we also knew that it would be difficult for him to find a school that would be ready to accept him.
When we started the hearing, the principal reminded us that no one emerges unscathed from such a hearing; this is very true. You can never be certain that you have made the right decision and you can also read the anxiety on the student’s face as well as on his parents’. Yet we also have to keep in mind the rest of the class and the teachers who are supposed to teach them.
Overall it is far from being a plesant experience – too much like navigating murky waters in foggy weather.