He called a classmate a "spaghetti noodle" because she was skinny. And he led the "Rubberband Gang" that launched pellets of paper across the classroom. But now sixth-grader Tyrique Royal, 12, is facing expulsion from Fahari Academy Charter School on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn -- for being a kid.
The school insists it's simply adhering to a strict "no-bullying" policy parents are well aware of, but student advocates say Tyrique's case illustrates the disparity between how charter and public schools handle difficult kids.
In the public-school system, students cannot be expelled if they are under 17, and principals cannot suspend a student for more than five consecutive days.
For serious offenses like dealing drugs or using weapons, a superintendent must intervene to suspend the student for longer. Only two students in the city have been expelled in the past three years -- and both were ousted for reaching the age of 21, a city spokeswoman said.
But charter schools set their own suspension rules and don't report expulsion data -- although experts believe thousands of difficult students are dumped every year to public schools.
A study of eight middle-school charters conducted last year by the United Federation of Teachers found the average attrition rate was 23 percent. Some of those students were held back a grade, but the numbers indicate that many students were forced to leave or were expelled, according to the report…
[Principal] Venning defended her school's strict anti-bullying rules. The school has a zero-tolerance policy toward name-calling, she said, and students are not allowed to touch each other…
But charter parents complain that school rules can get out of hand.
"Too often, charter schools are quick to exclude students for minor problems instead of giving them the behavioral support they need to stay and succeed in school," said Randi Levine, staff attorney for Advocates for Children.
But charter advocates said one disruptive student can taint the learning environment for an entire class -- and it's the school's duty to remove that student from the classroom.
"A charter has been set up to have a more disciplined and structured environment that's better for learning," said Peter Murphy, policy director for the New York Charter Schools Association. "Good school culture does not allow a persistently disruptive student to negatively affect the learning of everyone else in the class."
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CHARTERS 'NIX 23%' OF KIDS / Boys will be boys, but nonpublic schools are quick to expel average little rascals; April 24, 2011; New York Post