The Mandatory Expulsion Maze: Giving a Friend an Adderall Derailed an Honor Student’s Academic Career. He’s Not the Only One

By Bekah McNeel

Seaira Caldwell (Bekah McNeel)

‘Chutes and Ladders’

Rodriguez had carried the kind of courseload that doesn’t leave a lot of room for getting into trouble.

The rise of zero tolerance

Of the 154 students enrolled at the Bexar County Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program at various times in the 2018–19 school year, 55 percent had been subject to mandatory expulsion, program officials said — largely as a result of zero-tolerance laws that proliferated in after the passage of the federal Gun-Free Schools Act in 1994. The rhetoric of the day was all about fear of gang violence, so-called superpredators and losing the war on drugs. But there’s no getting away from the racial stereotyping inherent in the political effort to pass those laws, said Whittenberg. “Even the tone, and the language used to pass and enact these (laws),” he said, “they’re racist, really. They’re archaic.”

Fighting for her future

Nineteen-year-old Seaira Caldwell doesn’t blame the teachers or administrators at KIPP University Prep in San Antonio for the detour her life took May 16, 2016. She doesn’t blame the classmate who saw the gun in her backpack and turned her in. She doesn’t blame the judge who sentenced her.

Privilege points

It’s possible that reform could be on the way, Korman said — at least in part because the rising popularity of boutique marijuana products and expanding mandatory expulsion laws have increased the number of middle-class kids caught in the system.

The 74 is a non-profit, non-partisan news site covering education in America.

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