The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics cleared the way yesterday for three city school board members to begin circulating petitions to recall their outspoken and often controversial colleague, at-large member Frank Shaffer-Corona.

The Board of Elections ruled that the petitions conformed to their rules, despite Shaffer-Corona's protests that the board was "trying to railroad this through the process." Proponents of the recall drive had wanted the petitions approved as quickly as possible, so they couldn't circulate them on election day, Nov. 4, at the polls.

The petitions, calling for a special recall election, accuse Shaffer-Corona of violating school board rules by making illegal long-distance telephone calls to Iran and taking a trip to Mexico with school board funds, despite a school board ban on such travel. "On many occasions," the petitions read, "Frank Shaffer-Corona had deliberately disrupted the proceedings of the Board of Education and prevented the Board from carrying out its business."

In his response, which will be carried on the petitions side-by-side with the accusations, Shaffer-Corona denies making any telephone calls to Iran since the board issued its ban. He also charges that any school board rule prohibiting travel to another country is discriminatory.

Those speaking the recall -- School Board President R. Calvin Lockridge and board members Nathaniel Bush and Alaire B. Rieffel -- must collect about 26,000 valid signatures of registered District of Columbia voters in order for the city to call a special recall election.

Earlier this year, nine school board members voted to support a recall drive against Shaffer-Corona, but only the three members whose names appear on the recall petition actually joined in the unusual recall initiative.

Shaffer-Corona's four-year school board term expires in November 1981.