Friday, July 10, 2015

Expel the Expellers

Lev Beis Yaakov (VIN)
Expulsions from a school are particularly troubling to me. Even if the infractions for which a student has been expelled are serious. Unless such a student is shown to be detrimental to the student body or is found to be negatively influencing other students, I find expulsions to be an outrageous form of solving disciplinary problems.

Because once someone is expelled from a school, they become persona non grata at any other school they may apply to. And their reputation becomes sullied beyond their ability to do Teshuva. Their Shidduch prospects plummet. And in far too many cases they end up rejecting their Judaism because they see their Judaism rejecting them. Expulsions are therefore the easy way out.  The school just gets rid of their bad apples. Problem solved.

Well, perhaps for them, it is. But for the person that was expelled, the problems are only beginning. Not only is the student affected, but their entire family is affected. The public shame and embarrassment is felt by not only the student, but by their parents and siblings; grandparents, aunts and uncles.

There is something terribly wrong when you have to hurt others in order to make things better for yourself.

It is bad enough when the bad behavior is proven to be true. But what if it isn’t? What if a school gets a tip from a parent making claims for which they don’t have or refuse to show any proof? When a school expels a student that was only accused of wrong doing with no proof, that crosses the line from bad judgment into grounds for shutting down the school. Or at least firing those responsible for making that decision.

It was reported in VIN that this is exactly what happened at Lev Beis Yaakov, a Brooklyn girl’s high school. One of their students (identified only by her initials - GS) was accused of texting an inappropriate picture of herself to a boy. Now I don’t know what the school considers inappropriate. But let us assume the worst. It was a picture of her in some state of undress. That’s pretty bad - if true.

But there has been no evidence shown that it is. It is all based on an anonymous tip from the boy’s mother who said she saw it and refused to show it to anyone else for fear of ruining her son’s reputation.  (Which even if true - shows her to have a double standard. One for her son and one for the girl.)

The school expelled that girl immediately. They simply believed the accuser without a shred of evidence.  The girl’s family took this Beis Yaakov to court. From VIN:
Asked by Judge Reyes if G.S. has been expelled because of an anonymous tip with no proof supplied, (Lev Beis Yaakov attorney) Guzik did not deny the claims but rather countered that the alleged offense was a major infraction of school rules. Guzik’s remark prompted the judge to respond with incredulity, asking the defense lawyer twice in succession, “Are you serious?” 
Guzik, who said he had not seen all of the case files yet,  said that he believed that G.S.  had been disciplined by Lev Bais Yaakov previously for both in-school cell phone usage and behavioral issues and that she was struggling academically, which precipitated meetings between the school and her parents.
Goldberg described G.S. as a “troubled girl” who “was causing trouble” and suggested that her ejection after the anonymous phone call “may have been just the culmination of those many issues.” 
Judge Reyes expressed concern about the school’s decision to expel G.S. “It’s really troubling,” said Judge Reyes. 
“It’s really troubling. The straw that broke the camel’s back was an anonymous call and an allegation, if it even happened. You’ve got to admit it’s problematic.” 
Problematic? It is outrageous and disgusting thing to do that to anyone. If this ‘troubled’ girl was kept in the school after all of those infractions, they were obviously not serious enough for an expulsion. Expelling her on an anonymous tip is a terrible thing to do to her.

The school’s lawyer claimed the accusations were about serious infraction of the rules. Seriously? So what? People can be accused of anything by anybody. But when there is absolutely no proof of any wrongdoing, the severity of the accusation doesn't matter. Her denial should have been enough. She should have been allowed to stay.

But even if the accusation was true - the way to treat troubled young people is to work with them and their parents using professionals.  Not to expel them. Especially when the precipitating event is based on an anonymous tip.

What this school has done is not only ruined the lives of GS and her parents, they may have pushed her over the edge towards the abandonment of Torah. It may have even affected her mental health.  It is they who are ultimately responsible for that.

They have also ruined their own reputation in my view. I would never send my daughter to a school that expelled students on anonymous tips. If anyone should be expelled it is the individuals that made that decision. Because all they care about is reputation of the school. Not the students. At least not all the students.