Two Elkin residents took advantage of the available public comment time Monday during the Elkin City Schools Board of Education meeting to criticize and question the way a proposed discretionary policy would outline termination of out-of-district students’ eligibility to attend the city schools.
Perry Lloyd, a former coach and teacher of the school system, and Dr. John Orta, who has children attending the system and who assists with medical needs at ball games, voiced their concerns following the introduction of policies at the April meeting of the school board and were meant to clarify how administrators can handle discipline, academic and other issues which may arise in regards to out-of-district students.
In the policies, which also were criticized by school board member Frank Beals when they were brought up for a first reading in April, discretionary admission and the allowance of school-level administrators to decide to send a tuition-paying transfer student back to their home school district mid-school year if they were not meeting the standards allowed for attendance were addressed.
After discussion among the board members, the policies were tabled until Monday’s meeting, and when the agenda was adopted for Monday’s meeting following a period of closed session, the tabled policies were removed from the agenda altogether. But that didn’t deter Lloyd and Orta from sharing their views on the topic with the school board.
“At present, to my knowledge, [the discretionary policy] allows expulsion of a transfer student any time during the year,” Lloyd said, arguing the policy was “not economically sound” and violated the students’ civil rights.
“Historically the population of Elkin City Schools has been one-third to one quarter out-of-district students,” he said. “In my opinion, once Elkin City Schools accepts such students they are legally and morally obligated to serve them just like they serve ‘in-district’ consumers.”
He said the second economic implication is that once the state sends its funding to the school system based on its per-pupil attendance in the first 10 days of school, that money stays with the school system and will not follow a transfer student back to his or her home school system if they are denied admission mid-year to Elkin.
“Schools are paid up front to educate students,” Lloyd said. “Once Elkin accepts a transfer student, he is entitled to the service for which the state has already paid and his family is supplementing with tuition payments. His acceptance into the system makes him just like any other consumer within it.”
Lloyd also cited several state and national constitutional statements in his argument that expelling a transfer student mid-year is a violation of the student’s civil rights.
“This interpretation is not constitutional,” he said. “Article 4 Section 2 of the United States Constitution states ‘The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.’ Since local governments are created by state governments, this rule clearly applies to them as well. Current interpretation of this policy is unconstitutional since transfer students are held to higher standards than in-district students.”
He also used Amendment 14 of the U.S. Constitution in his arguments, noting that “since current interpretation of the policy in question treats transfer students differently, this interpretation is unconstitutional. In the North Carolina Constitution, he cited Article 1 Section 19 and Article 9 Section 1 as examples supporting his stance.
But he said he wasn’t going to just provide complaints, he wanted to also give the school board options for solutions to the issue. “The discretionary policy is obviously flawed, and bad policy needs to be corrected.
“Expulsion is the most severe penalty a school can administer,” Lloyd said. “This tool should not be placed in a school administrator’s tool belt to use selectively on one element of the student body that is somehow deemed inferior because of their address.”
He suggested if there is a continuing history of failure by a transfer student to meet the standards set, then the time to end the association between the school and student should be at the end of a school year. He said a similar approach is used by Mount Airy City Schools in handling its transfer students.
Also, if the school system chooses to end its affiliation with a transfer student based on failure to meet standards, then “the system should be able to back up this claim in a court. When the school backs down from a threatened lawsuit in one case, and whole-heartedly pursues termination for the student that cannot afford legal remedy, they are engaging in yet one more form of discrimination that we have not yet addressed,” Lloyd said. “I hope that’s not the case.”
“I have been out-of-district a long time and have bought a new home and now am in district,” explained Orta as he also addressed the issue of the discretionary policy.
“There was a specific incident in my son’s classroom,” noting that his son’s story was one student who was out of district was given a certain punishment while the others involved who were in district were given a different punishment. “He wanted to know why, and I couldn’t tell him.
“There should be no disparity,” Orta told the school board. “I try to educate that everybody is equal and decisions should be based on merit.
“I don’t know the full story, just what my son tells me,” he admitted. “I’m a very active person, and have been on the sidelines with these kids. This is my stance. I know a lot of you personally, and I know you’ll fully reflect on it and do the right thing.”
While the school board typically doesn’t respond to public comments during the forum, board Chairman Dr. Richard Brinegar did tell Lloyd, “I see you’ve put a lot of time and effort in that, and we will be taking that up.”
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.