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TV, No Homework Can Turn Suspensions Into Vacations

Chatting on a cell phone and shopping for groceries fill some of the hours sisters Kymber Andre-Sanders, left, and Shawnte Andre-Sanders of Prince William had free during their five-day suspensions.
Chatting on a cell phone and shopping for groceries fill some of the hours sisters Kymber Andre-Sanders, left, and Shawnte Andre-Sanders of Prince William had free during their five-day suspensions. (By Jahi Chikwendiu -- The Washington Post)

Prince William school officials would not comment on the Andre-Sanders sisters' suspensions, citing confidentiality policies. But Alison Nourse-Miller, an associate superintendent, said that the school system has a general rule barring students from making up work during suspensions. Principals, however, can make exceptions. In serious situations such as fights, "a serious message has to be sent" to the students, she said.

But she also said that even though students may not get credit, they can still access some or all of their work through Web sites or computer programs.

Kymber and Shawnte were accused of participating in a face-slapping, nail-scratching, hair-pulling scuffle with two other students at their school bus stop. They say that they did not start the fight and that they were trying to defend themselves. Their mother, Yolanda Sanders, and the other students' father also became involved in the fight.

Kymber and Shawnte were suspended for five days, and the principal later told them that they can make up the work they missed, their mother said.

"But why couldn't they have just sent the work home? I wish we could have had that for them to do at home -- it would have kept them motivated," said Sanders, 33, an operating room coordinator at Inova Fairfax Hospital and a member of a National Guard unit. "I know they're being punished. But are they really being punished? I don't understand the value that they're trying to teach children."

Feeling they were unfairly treated, Kymber and Shawnte's parents are vowing to pull them out of the Prince William school system after the grading period is over in January. They want to go back to Raleigh, N.C., where they had been living before last year.

Toward the end of one school day during the suspension, they ventured out with their father, a defense contractor, to drop off a library book and buy groceries. The Shoppers Food & Pharmacy store was virtually empty. With the aisles wide open, the family quickly picked out a cart full of food. The girls' father let them pick out their favorite doughnuts at the bakery department.

It was just past 1:50, when school normally lets out. As they stood in a checkout lane, Kymber's cell phone buzzed.

"Hello? Oh, yeah. We're just enjoying our life of being suspended," Kymber chirped. "My sister did, too. They said we jumped them, but we didn't. It's all going to come out."

Shawnte was crouched down, her eyes bulging at the new M&M candy bars.


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