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The city school board is clearly having a strong internal debate over whether it is right to permanently expel students who are 16 and older if they have committed a serious offense. The expulsion issue began last year when schools CEO Andres Alonso decided to try to reduce the incidents of fire setting in the city schools and sent a letter home to parents saying he would permanently expel students who set a fire.

That left some students as young as 9 years old shut out of any city public school forever and produced such a round of criticism that Alonso had to back off the practice and propose permanent expulsion for those 16 and older. Everyone seems to have a strong feeling about whether this policy is right or wrong and so the testimony before the school board meeting last night included proponents and opponents of the policy.

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At one point, David Stone, who opposes permanent expulsion, introduced a motion to put a moratorium on the expulsions until a formal policy is voted on by the board in the next couple of months.

The vote was 3-3 and failed. Stone, Bob Heck and George VanHook voted for the moratorium and Anirban Basu, Neil Duke and Maxine Wood voted against it. Jim Campbell abstained. Jerrelle Francois was not at the meeting.

If that was an early vote on the expulsion issue, then any future vote will be dependent on what side Campbell and Francois come down on. The school board only has eight members because the mayor and governor have not appointed a new member to replace Brian Morris. He resigned from the board in June.

There was a very testy exchange during the meeting between Basu and Stone. Stone noted that no one on the board is suggesting that students who set a fire in a bathroom trash can be allowed to stay in their school. The student should be sent to an alternative school, he said. But Basu contended that a student who is dangerous in one setting could also be dangerous in another environment.

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