Most of the elementary school pupils testifying yesterday before the D.C. school board supported a proposed policy on stricter discipline, while older students largely ignored the discipline question.
Many of the 20 students who appeared before the seven school board members described youths involved in drug abuse and other disruptive activities as a minority of "troublemakers" and "hard heads" who should be suspended and expelled for breaking school rules.
The proposed code would allow for the immediate suspension of students charged with serious crimes such as selling drugs and carrying dangerous weapons.
Under current rules students can be suspended for no longer than 10 days regardless of their offenses. The proposed policy would provide a minimum suspension of 25 days and a maximum of two semesters, an entire school year, in cases involving serious offenses. Expulsions of students are forbidden in the city school system.
The recent arrests of several students on charges of selling drugs and the decision of Wilson High School Principal Michael Durso to stay away from school to protest his lack of authority to suspend a student charged with rape have focused attention on the issue of school discipline. The charge against the youth was later dropped.
Angela Hill, 16, a junior at Woodson High School and the recently elected student representative on the school board, was the lone opponent of the proposed stricter policy. "Those who are being suspended on a daily basis now are the very ones who need to be in school," she said at the hearings held at Eastern High School. "I don't think suspensions should be extended," she said.
Hill said students charged with crimes should attend an alternative school where they could receive counseling. She said she had polled 50 students and most of them opposed severe suspensions.
But younger students disagreed. Hope Jones, 10, a fifth grader at Turner Elementary School, said, "I plead, beg and urge you to make disciplinary rules so stiff that those students caught peddling drugs will be discouraged" from doing so.
Jerome Weinstock of Nalle Elementary School said, "If a person does something bad and doesn't get punished, it makes others feel they can do it, too."
Kristal O'Bryant, 9, a fourth grader at Beers Elementary School, said, "People who use drugs are a danger to us. Recently elementary school students were arrested for selling drugs. We need to educate kids about the danger of drugs starting in elementary school.