Denied Opportunities With A Hope For A New Possibility

July 17, 2012 /

By Gibran Moncayo, 19, Lamont, CA.  South Kern Sol.

Chayanne Ochoa, 16, has experienced expulsion, but came back with a more mature mentality.

School expulsions have been on the rise and on the forefront of youth and adult allies to create a solution.

Questions raised are:
What result has the Zero Tolerance policy brought?
Why are students being kicked out rather than being kept in schools?
How is that setting them up to succeed in the real world?
For Kern County there has been a total of 38, 465 suspensions and 2, 578 expulsions for the ’10-’11 school year. The Truancy rate for Kern County alone was 32.79% and for California it was 29.76%. That right there is pretty shocking. In the ’08-’09 school year there were a total of 46, 759 suspensions and there were 2, 654 expulsions, this shows a decrease in the expulsions and suspension rates after two years. Recently The California Endowment and partners have brought this issue to state officials and have gotten nine pieces of legislation to change school policies dealing with school discipline. There have been many students who have stepped up and made their case present, to as how their experience was when they got suspended/expelled and why.

One of these stories was of my friend, Chayanne Ochoa, who goes to Arvin High School and got expelled last school year, ’10-’11, during the last part of the school year. In his case it involved a “violent” altercation between an old acquaintance and Ochoa. The old acquaintance had been spreading lies of Ochoa, and he had enough of hearing him talk lies. Though it wasn’t a very violent altercation, the school officials made it seem as if it was. He was sent to Juvenile Hall to wait for his mother to pick him up.

Afterwards, his mother and him had a conversation with the Dean, which was not a pleasant one. Two days after being suspended Ochoa returned back to school, but again he found himself in the Dean’s office, this time to find out he was not supposed to be back in school yet, and to find out because of this he was getting expelled.

Here is a recent update from him on how he was after the experience and what kind of student he is.
“Well I got into a fight with an old “friend” of mine, now he was someone I just knew since we didn’t talk. He was saying things about me and my friends and I got frustrated about it, so one day during lunch, since he hung out right in front of where my friends and I hung out, I walked over and confronted him about it. I ended up punching him. After that he hid behind his girlfriend and the security came over and grabbed both of us, we went to talk to the Dean. Though the Dean only heard his side of the story, she really did not believe my side of the story, though he was the one to begin this whole thing. She thought that my story, was not a legitimate reason, the other guy made it seem like I was a ring leader, and she thought I was sent by someone else, yet I clearly stated that I did it because I wanted to, and not because of the reason she believed. I ended up going to Juvy for a couple of hours until my mom came for me. I don’t understand why they took me there, there was no reason for that to happen. Not only did I get suspended and got threatened with assault and battery, I was called a menace to society by the Dean due to me having a straight face during my “fight”, and she told my mom ‘that there was something wrong with me and to get “happy” medicine prescribed to calm down. Since the action was out of character she thought I was mentally unstable and needed to get checked up at the doctor. I ended up getting suspended after going to Juvenile Hall. When I returned it was because the paper they issued said to return two days later, and I ended up getting in more trouble though it said to return back in two days. I didn’t want them thinking that I was skipping school. That day which was a Friday, my mom was having another meeting with the Dean. The Dean asked why was I there if I was supposed to return 3 days later. I double checked the paper and showed her, and she said it was my fault and I was not supposed to be there, so she ended up expelling me because I was there on a day “I wasn’t supposed to” and took it as an act of defiance, and threatened my mom by saying, she could send me to juvy right then and there though that wasn’t correct to do because I was there on the day I was supposed to. I’m an “A’s, B’s, and C’s” type of student, “C’s” are for when classes are to hard or when teachers are acing dumb. The experience of me fighting was whatever, it didn’t affect me too much, I didn’t take it as ‘my life is over’, I just go to deal with it, since I expected it could happen. Though, if anything it made me think twice about things and it made me mature more faster, made me think about like how hard choices are, I wouldn’t do this again ’cause it could be worse next time.”

Nicholas Diaz, 16, was a ‘good student.’

A friend of Ochoa, Nicholas Diaz saw the whole thing, though he has never experienced suspension or expulsion due to him being a “good” student. He explains what kind of student he is, and whether or not getting expelled takes a psychological toll on a student. “I would say I’m a “B”-average student, probably. I don’t really see categorization of students of them being called “good” or “bad”. Umm, I think it would take a psychological toll, because it’s like they’re either getting kicked out of school makes them feel bad and affects students in a way, like I guess in a negative way since expulsion is something really bad when you think about it causes the person to feel bad.”

Desiree Gomez, who is different from both Chayanne Ochoa and Nicholas Diaz and a year younger than both, she explains what kind of student she is, and that there is profiling of students at school. Also if getting expelled or pushed out takes a psychological toll on students. “I’m a “D/C”-average student. Yeah ‘they’ do profile, if “good” students are getting high at the back of the school, they don’t do anything to them, like we were in class, my friends one which is an “A” student and the one was a “D/C” student, had the same essay word by word, and the “bad” one got a “D’ grade, while the “good” one got an “A”. Getting expelled or suspended does not take a toll on my friends, because it’s easier, getting credits is faster, in Nueva High School. They can’t even walk in groups that are more than four or they get in trouble and they see it as why go here instead of somewhere where we are expected to do bad and act bad. Umm, I think it would take a toll because it’s like they’re getting kicked out of school, makes students feel bad and affects them in a way, like I guess it’s like a negative  way since expulsion it’s something really bad when you think about it causes the person to fell bad.”

They all tie in together, though they all don’t know each other, except for Chayanne and Nicholas. They are all in the spectrum from “good” or “bad” students, and are defined by their grades and their actions in school. Though Nicolas does not see a lot of student profiling, Desiree and Chayanne have experienced it first hand, though Desiree’s experiences are from her friends and what she hears from them.

There are many solutions to this problem. One could be creating a youth panel or council to mediate altercations rather than having them sent to the dean. Chayanne and Nicolas shared their thoughts on that issue. “Well I think it could help, but it could make it worse ’cause the other person could say that the other person is a woose, or they’ll find something to say after wards (Chayanne)”. “Yeah, it would be better than expulsion or suspension, it’s a better opportunity, like it is something better way as too see what happened not just one side, you see the whole story and say your side.(Nicholas).”

Could having a youth panel decrease suspensions and expulsions and give a better opportunity for students to see empathy from their peers? It is a huge possibility. But we will not know until we put it into action in our schools from middle schools through high schools, through California. Lets set a model to show that we aren’t about incarceration but about educating our youth and setting them up for a successful future.

Desiree Gomez, 15, experiences with suspensions and expulsions have been through her friends.

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