Santa Rosa school district may ease student suspension rule

  • 4/2/2009: B1: Santa Rosa High School students line up outside Wednesday after a caller falsely reported an "explosive device" in a bathroom of DeSoto Hall.

    PC: Santa Rosa High School students ere evacuated, Wednesday morning April 1, 2009 after a caller reporedt an "exlposive device" in a bathroom of DeSoto Hall. The report was a hoax. The phone call originated from a phone booth on College Avenue, according to police reports. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat)2009

Santa Rosa City Schools is moving toward modifying a policy that for decades has banned students who have been suspended from school from participating in co-curricular activities.

The current so-called "25-day" rule requires a student who receives a school suspension be barred from participating in extra- and co-curricular activities such as sports, drama and music productions, and potentially graduation ceremonies if the infraction comes within a 25-day window of the event. The penalty is 20 days for middle school students.

Sonoma County's largest school district is eyeing a change in policy that would alter the after-school penalty for students because many officials said the ban represents a double punishment.

A committee of teachers, coaches, parents, principals and community members is expected to convene to come up with a policy that will be followed by all district high schools and middle schools. The new policy is slated to be in place for the 2014-15 school year and students will not be able to participate in co-curricular activities without a signed contract on file.

But just what the policy will look like remains to be seen.

"I was delighted that this is not a decision that is made by a few coaches or a few athletic directors, but all stakeholders are participating in the decision," said trustee Larry Haenel. "You will get a policy that is reflective of the thoughts of those who are closely involved with students at the site."

Board President Bill Carle called the 25-day ban "outdated" and aligned with the concept of zero tolerance, which the district has been moving away from in favor of restorative justice programs. Newer policies require students to make amends for their misdeeds.

"It really was a double punishment and I don't think frankly it was a deterrent to stupid mistakes that teenagers have a tendency to do," he said.

But Carle countered any suggestion that district officials will be letting students off the hook for transgressions.

"We haven't eliminated suspensions. Safety issues, mandatory issues? Nobody is letting up with respect to those," he said.

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