Nov 14th, 2019
STUDENT will give his best effort in all of his subjects every day. That subjective condition-statement was extracted from a school district's boilerplate one-page abeyance agreement. It's codified by the district's school board policy. With suspensions racing to extinction, this is in the new embodiment of student discipline and it’s not just a second chance to follow the rules. WHAT IS AN ABEYANCE AGREEMENT (AA). In public schools, an AA sets forth the conditions under which the school agrees to not impose discipline (detention/suspension/expulsion). AA is a practice wrangled from the legal system (not from education policy) where it’s often associated with a plea deal. AAs are also referred to as pre-expulsion agreements or a first offenders program. PURPOSE OF AN AA. School leaders champion AA’s as a tool of discretion that offers a second chance for students who have violated the code of student conduct. However, implicit functions of the AA include: (a) having a conclusive action to an investigation; (b) avoiding creation of a reportable data as AAs are not reported to local, state Department of Public Instruction, or federal agencies; (c) avoid convening the IEP team if the child has a disability (to discuss services and placement); and (d) shield the school board from an abrasive student expulsion. WHAT ARE THE PARTS OF AN AA? A Google search will surface countless AA templates - some as short as a page. AAs include, (a) period of time that the AA is in effect - often a semester; (b) attendance requirements; (c) requirement that the student follow the school rules; (d) statement that the student will give his/her “best effort” in school; and (e) signatures by student, parent and school administrator. Many include the following clause, “By executing this agreement the undersigned acknowledges that they voluntarily and without any undue influence agree to waive their right to appeal.” ...That last sentence. Yep, an AA is a slight-of-hand maneuver that separates students from their right of due process. IS AN AA REPORTED TO THE STATE OR FED? There is no requirement that an AA be reported to a school board, state department of instruction or federal department of education. In fact, most AAs are expunged from school databases after they expire unlike school suspensions and expulsions which must be reported to state and federal government. FIVE INCENTIVES TO ENTER INTO AN AA. Reasons that drive AAs: (1) keeps the district’s actions “off the books.” (2) has FERPA (privacy) shield; (3) if a student has a disability, or might have a disability that hasn’t been diagnosed, an IEP team would be convened to hold a manifestation determination and consider services and placement. AA might preclude convening the IEP; (4) simple and quick; (5) parents go along with them most of the time because an AA leverages the positionality (perceived power) of the school. The school often includes its lawyer to craft the AA or be present at the meeting with parents. THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PERSUASION: WHY PARENTS ALWAYS AGREE TO AN AA. A parent might be intimidated by the school (as it is a powerful government institution) or overwhelmed by school authorities with advanced degrees and initials after their names. In these instances, parents perceive the AA as a “gift” from the school and sign it to bring the matter to a close and clean their child’s record. Other times, parents believe they pressured the school into making a deal due to their status in the community or making it known that they could unleash a “complaint campaign” or bring advocates to meetings. Regardless of the parents’ perception of why they are being offered the AA, the school gets what it wants - the signed AA. SIX SHORTCOMINGS OF AAs. (1) no oversight, efficacy research or reporting requirement; (2) less incentive for exhaustive investigation; (3) low threshold to fulfill the AA / no learning objectives; (4) privacy law keeps them secret; (5) denies due process to students [with disabilities]; (6) destroys a student record that might reveal a skill deficit, pattern of behavior or even bring light upon a systemic practice of institutional bias. FOLLOW DR. PERRODIN: Twitter @SafetyPhD and subscribe to The Safety Doc YouTube channel & Apple Podcasts. SAFETY DOC WEBSITE & BLOG: www.safetyphd.com. The Safety Doc Podcast is hosted & produced by David Perrodin, PhD. ENDORSEMENTS. Opinions are those of the host & guests. The show adheres to nondiscrimination principles while seeking to bring forward productive discourse & debate on topics relevant to personal or institutional safety. LOOKING FOR DR. TIMOTHY LUDWIG, PHD? Dr. Perrodin’s “Safety Doc Podcast” negotiates school and community safety. To be informed about industrial safety, please contact Appalachian State University Professor Dr. Timothy Ludwig, PhD, at www.safety-doc.com. This is episode 112.
- Purchase Dr. Perrodin’s Book: School of Errors – Rethinking School Safety in America. www.schooloferrors.com