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Akron schools and teachers dispute expulsions
School board wins arbitration but new grievance is pending

Mark Urycki
The teachers union lost one grievance but have filed a new one over the assault of a teacher by a student.
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The Akron Public Schools has won an arbitrator’s ruling over the suspension of 4 students who were caught carrying weapons last year.  The teachers union filed a grievance when the students were not expelled, as recommended in their collective bargaining agreement. WKSU’s Mark Urycki reports one union official suspects politics are at play.

Suspensions vs expulsions

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The Akron Education Association – the teachers union- and the school board have been arguing over discipline rules since the mid 80’s when a number of teachers were assaulted by students. in this latest case, the Akron Education Association wanted the four students to be expelled but school’s investigator reduced their discipline to 10 day suspensions.  Bill Siegferth of the AEA says he knows expulsions cannot be automatic but, says the school investigator had no reason NOT to expel the kids, 3 of whom had BB guns.

“The hearing officer had no mitigating or exonerating circumstances beyond ‘it was a toy and there was no victim.’”

The arbitrator agreed that the BB guns were weapons but ended up siding with the school board.  He ruled the hearing officer may have made the wrong decision but he cannot be compelled to expel a student just because it was recommended.  

Siegferth says the union filed a grievance on a new case and this time they’re demanding to know what evidence the hearing officer used to reverse a student expulsion.  And he wants teachers who are assaulted to take their case to court.

“Our member did follow through, filed a complaint in juvenile court, and the court found this kid guilty of assault.”

School decline to comment on this case but earlier this year David James, the superintendent called for a community review of the code of student behavior amid complaints that Akron had the highest rate of suspensions for black students compared to other Ohio districts.  Siegferth says principals may feel intimidated..  

“Maybe it’s not announced or organized but I think there is subtle pressure to reduce the number of suspensions.”

Siegferth says he supports the Akron’s alternative to expulsion program that isolates troublesome kids but he says they suffer from lack of state funding.  

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