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Parent: Student tribunal hearings not fair to all
Letter to the Editor generic

Dear editor: 

When will the Liberty County Board of Education and school administrators start working for our children? This is the question I have been asking myself for the last three weeks as I have navigated an unjust system. In March alone, 13 students have been expelled from the high schools. I am a parent of one of those students.

You may be thinking, well, kids should not be getting into trouble and to that I agree. However, we have a school system failing to keep our children safe and then blaming the children for the school’s incompetence. This is magnified by a Board of Education who is so interested in maintaining the status quo and a superintendent only interested in, and I quote “believing the adults” they have failed to see the forest through the trees.

Yes, my child did get into a physical altercation at school. However, she was protecting herself from those who wanted to hurt her while administrators stood by. As a matter of fact, school administrators admitted she did not strike the first blow. For protecting herself when the adults failed to protect her, as is her right under Georgia State Law, she was expelled from school until January of 2020.  

This is a child who is an athlete and has never even had detention; although you would never know that from the way in which she has been treated by school administration, the Board of Education Tribunal Officer, and the Liberty County Board of Education. This letter is not just about her.  It is about all the other children in Liberty County who were treated as felons, guilty of a violation or not, from the time they entered the Liberty County School Tribunal Hearing. I wonder how many of those children were told that they were guilty before having a chance to plead their case or call witnesses. Mine was!

Now to the topic at hand. There have been 40 high school student tribunals since the beginning of the 2017 school year through March of the 2019 school year. One hundred percent of those resulted in expulsion with a choice to go to alternative school or complete expulsion from the school system as a whole; averaging 8.6 months per child no matter what the named offense. The school is supposed to use progressive discipline and consider each individual child on their own merits.   

The current system is not so “progressive” especially when undoubtedly, my child is not the only one with a clean school record. Further, her rights to a fair and impartial hearing were violated yet the Liberty County School Board is not interested in that. My child’s due process protections were violated and again, the Liberty County School Board is not interested in that. Witness testimony from the school was inconsistent and yet the Liberty County School Board is not interested in that. School administration failed to protect my child yet the Liberty County School Board is not interested in that. So what is it they are interested in? I will not stand idly by while they totally disregard not only their written policies but also our children’s rights to due process rights.

Parents and children are not made aware of their rights and notified to the fact that Tribunal Hearings are to be held similarly as court hearings (although due process is totally ignored by Liberty County) and students and parents have certain protections under the law.

It is time now for parents and children to raise their voices against an unjust system that just wants to pass the buck so they can continue to report false statistics to the state and act as if what they are doing is in the best interest of the children. In all actuality the system is set up by the school district to sweep away any responsibility they have and not allow the punishment to fit the crime; but instead, put every child into the same category regardless of the infraction or disciplinary history.

Courtney Hernandez

Concerned parent

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