Making good on a promise in October from schools Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman, the School Reform Commission yesterday returned to the practice of formally expelling students.

During its regular meeting the commission unanimously voted to implement a new suspension and expulsion policy, which entitles students to formal expulsion hearings and requires the commission to vote on each expulsion. Previously, less-formal hearings were held, the commission did not vote and students were transferred to alternative disciplinary schools rather than expelled.

The commission wasted no time using the new policy when it expelled a student identified only by the initials "S.B." The student brought a gun to school in September, according to Ackerman, who did not attend yesterday's meeting.

Prior to yesterday, the last formal expulsion was Jan. 18, 2006, said Tomas Hanna, director of school operations.

"This administration under Doctor Ackerman is saying we are going to take these cases to the commission for action," Hanna said during an interview. An additional three students have had expulsion hearings, and five are scheduled for hearings before winter break, Hanna said.

For years, Jack Stollsteimer, the state-appointed safe-schools advocate, has criticized district officials for transferring students rather than expelling them, as state law mandates.

"My job is to make sure the district is in compliance with the law, and for the first time in three years the district has decided to be in compliance with the law, and that is good for everybody," he said.

The expulsion policy states that the commission "may expel any student whose misconduct, disobedience, and/or violation of the Code of Student Conduct is serious enough to warrant such a sanction."

It states that expulsions can be permanent or temporary.

Also during the meeting Hanna presented a report on the impact of the district's "zero tolerance" stance against violence, drugs and weapons.

From September through November, there were 1,048 alleged infractions, compared with 1,028 at the same time last year, he said.

Of those offenses, 460 were assaults on staff or other adults, 486 were group assaults on students, 91 were drug and alcohol offenses and 11 involved guns.

Hanna said the district's six alternative disciplinary schools will be able to handle the increased number of students who will be sent to them.

He noted that 1,109 slots are available in those schools while about 300 students now there will be sent back to their regular schools in January. *