Charter schools may refuse to enroll students who have been expelled or who are in the process of being expelled from another school (A.R.S. § 15-184(I)). They may not, however, deny enrollment to students who have been or are in the process of being suspended or long-term suspended. Still, at least 59 charter schools in Arizona either refuse to admit students with prior suspensions or imply that prior suspensions could affect their admission.
Some charter schools go even further. They ask for discipline records, including whether the student has been arrested, been under the supervision of a probation officer, been involved with the juvenile court system, or exhibited aggressive behaviors. Oftentimes, the schools requesting these records don’t make it clear that it won’t affect a student’s enrollment eligibility. As a result, it may suppress the enrollment of some students and send them a message that they are not welcome.
According to an Arizona Department of Education spokesperson, alternative schools may ask about a student’s disciplinary history or records during the enrollment process “to better assist how the school operates.” That’s because to get alternative school status, schools must make it their mission to serve specific populations of at-risk students, including students with disruptive behavioral issues. Alternative schools must be able to show proof that they meet a required threshold of students who fall into one of several categories, such as students who are pregnant or parenting, students who have previously dropped out, and students who are far behind on credits.
Bright Beginnings School (Chandler): “If your student has been suspended or expelled from another education institution, enrollment is prohibited by Board Policy.”
Desert Sky Community School (Tucson): A student who “is not in compliance with a condition of disciplinary action imposed by any other school or school district or with a condition imposed by the juvenile court shall not be admitted.”
Freedom Academy (Phoenix, Scottsdale): The school states it will “not enroll a student who is on suspension from another school, nor will we accept a student who has experienced behavior difficulties at another school and is in the process of assignment, or has been assigned to an Alternative School.”
Imagine Avondale (Avondale elementary and middle school campuses): “Students who have been placed on long-term suspension by another school or district are required to have a parent/guardian/student conference with administration as a mandatory part of the admission process.”
Learning Foundation Performing Arts (Gilbert, Mesa): “If student [sic] has ever been suspended, expelled, or recommended for expulsion or withdrawal, then both parent/guardian and student must interview with the school principal before being considered for admission.”
Leading Edge Academy (Gilbert, Queen Creek): The school “may elect not to admit students who have been or are currently under disciplinary action or who have withdrawn pending such action from another school. If it is discovered that a student has been previously expelled or long-term suspended, the student’s enrollment may be terminated.”
Tucson International Academy (three campuses in Tucson): “Students that are suspended may not be enrolled at TIA schools and students that have been excluded or expelled will not be enrolled at TIA schools.”
The Paideia Academy of South Phoenix (Phoenix): “A review of the disciplinary records of a child may indicate that the student manifested an on-going and reckless disregard of other individual students resulting in numerous suspensions on a continuous basis causing an interference with or disruption of an educational institution. Such a behavioral record is grounds to refuse to enroll or administratively disqualify a student’s registration.”
Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy (Prescott): “Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy does not encourage students with academic or behavior problems to apply.”
Rose Academies (five campuses in Tucson): Parents are told they may request a special meeting with the principal if their student has been suspended or expelled “in order to determine enrollment eligibility.”
Valley Preparatory Academy (Tempe): The school states that prior to acceptance, students must be “free of disciplinary or behavioral problems that may disrupt the work of VPA.”
• Enrollment documents should not ask for information about prior suspensions, arrest records, or disciplinary history other than expulsion.
• Schools must eliminate interview requirements, including those related to ascertaining behavioral history.