Some reasons are just weird

Published January 29, 2007

LAND O'LAKES - You probably expect to hear about drugs, fights and weapons.

That's why kids get expelled from school, right?

Those are the most common expellable offenses in Pasco County, when you tally up the numbers approved by the School Board. They come biweekly for action, usually 12 to 15 per meeting.

But they're far from the only things that can get a student kicked out of school. And sometimes, the students' actions simply make you shake your head.

"You think you have heard it all, and then somebody does something else really stupid," said Chairwoman Marge Whaley, now in her 14th year on the board.

Here's one from the board's most recent agenda: "This student urinated into a milk carton and then gave the carton to another student. The other student, believing the milk carton contained only milk, drank the liquid."

The punishment for the 16-year-old Land O'Lakes High student? Ten days of out-of-school suspension followed by placement at the Marchman Technical Education Center for the rest of the school year. His expulsion was tabled for one more chance.

"I don't normally read these out loud to my husband," Whaley said. "That one was a new one."

Student services director Lizette Alexander does her best to make sure you can't figure out who is being disciplined. The School Board does not require the students and their families to attend the public board meetings, although a juvenile judge has started making some apologize publicly. Their names don't appear on public documents. Any detail that might indicate to the child's identity is avoided.

"They're protected," Alexander said.

Sometimes, district officials even resort to code words to guard the students.

"Otherwise," Alexander said, "you end up exposing the child, and you can't do that."

Her office still has to produce some specifics, so the board gets a sense of the gravity of the student's actions. The items have a certain poetry of their own. Here's a few more examples:

- "This student was in possession of three razor blades, two packs of cigarettes, 10 lighters, a booklet with cryptic code writing and a necklace with sharp points on it. This student also admitted to biting a student several times."

- "This student threw a small battery out of a moving bus and into the window of another bus, where it knocked off that driver's sunglasses."

- "This student has received a referral for defiance of authority. This student has received his 10th referral since August 2006 and his 32nd referral since August 2005."

- "This student moved to Wisconsin during summer 2005 ... On Dec. 9, 2005, the Board of Education of West Allis School District ordered the expulsion of the student through his 21st birthday ... The student, now age 16, has returned to Pasco County and is requesting re-enrollment in Pasco County schools. Based on the student's continued pattern of misbehavior, it is requested that the recommendation for expulsion from Pasco County schools be considered."

Whaley still remembers one above all. It was shortly after the country was rocked by 9/11 and anthrax letters. A student - Whaley said it was a boy in the gifted program - decided to leave class, put on a mask outside and sneak into another room, where he tossed a sack of flour at a teacher.

The teacher caught the boy before the whole school had to be locked down, Whaley said. His parents protested, but the board expelled the boy anyway.

"That was the weirdest one," Whaley said.

Until the next one.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at 813 909-4614 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 4614. His e-mail address is solochek@sptimes.com.