County School Officials Concerned They Will No Longer Be Able To Send Unruly Students Home Under New Law

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Hamilton County School officials are concerned they will no longer be able to send unruly students home.

Under a law passed in this year's legislative sessions, students who have been suspended or expelled would have to remain in an educational session.

The county school system currently has the Washington Alternative School in the Highway 58 area and is considering adding up to three more Alternative Schools in various parts of the county.

School Board Attorney Scott Bennett said talk about the county schools no longer being able to suspend students was related to the new bill.

School officials are also looking to what response to the law the State School Board will have.

Attorney Bennett discussed the concerns in recent emails to county school officials.

On Oct 29, 2019, at 5:47 PM, Scott Bennett <> wrote:

Good afternoon, all.


I spent this morning on the phone with Angie Sanders, the attorney for the State Board of Education, discussing our concerns with the State Department of Education’s drafted alternative school policy.


From her perspective, she believes that the Department has probably exceeded its authority by redefining certain terms in policy instead of letting the General Assembly do it by law or the State Board do it by regulation.  (Technically, regulations – or “rules” under Tennessee law – are more formal than Board policies and carry more weight.)  She intends to recommend that the State Board defer action on the Department’s proposed policy until the DOE rewrites it.


Now, it is possible that the Department may pull back on some of its more aggressive policy rewrites and leave in some of the minor revisions.  As I understand what Angie anticipates could happen, I don’t think we would have a problem with that.  But we won’t know until we see what the Department does.


Angie has recommended that the State Board take a hard look at the General Assembly’s new law and revise the State Rules accordingly.  Again, this is a more formal process than the DOE drafting a policy; it actually requires public hearings and comment.  She has asked me to come to the Board meeting in December and to present the concerns that you, the local board of education, have regarding the new law.


From my perspective, the new law is well-intentioned.  It aims to keep students in school even when they misbehave.  So long as we safeguard two issues – the authority of the principal to suspend a student from school for up to 10 days, and the authority of the school board to expel a truly dangerous student for 365 days – we can work to develop new alternative education programs that follow the law.  Indeed, I think we are already moving in that direction.


I will keep you posted as I learn more.  Meanwhile, please let me know if you have any questions, thoughts, or concerns.



Scott Bennett



Attorney at Law



Bennett &DeCamp,PLLC





Flatiron Building |707 Georgia Ave,Suite 300 | Chattanooga, TN 37402



423.498.3791 - direct dial | 423.498.3789 - main line









From: Scott Bennett <>
Sent: Friday, October 25, 2019 9:01 AM
To: Smith Joe <>
Subject: Re: new alternative school policy from the State DOE


In case anyone was wondering where administrators were getting the message they weren't allowed to suspend anymore, THIS is where that message started.  In the training this summer, we alerted everyone that this MIGHT be the position the State would take on a new law enacted by the General Assembly.  Now that apprehension has become a reality.


So what can we do about it? 


I have been on the phone this morning with another superintendent who has contacts on the State Board of Education.  She is working to slow down the SBE's approval of this policy on the grounds that the General Assembly will surely change the law to preserve zero tolerance and the principal's authority over the first 10 days.  She is making the argument that policy development takes time and that, if we have to implement this SBE policy, then the law will likely change by the time we revise our procedures.


She is also getting her senator and representative together to discuss the impact this new SBE policy will have on her schools.  She foresees that principals will resort to juvenile prosecutions to get kids out of the schools since they can no longer send them home.  That would be terrible.


I may be overly optimistic, but I think if enough delegations hear from enough local board members, then we can create a consensus that this law needs to change ASAP.  And if that consensus is strong enough, then perhaps the State Board will defer action on this proposed policy until next year.


I will keep you posted as I hear anything.


D. Scott Bennett

Attorney at Law



From: Smith Joe <>
Sent: Friday, October 25, 2019 12:13 AM
To: Scott Bennett <>
Subject: Re: new alternative school policy from the State DOE
This is NUTS 

Oct. 24

Good afternoon, all.

Attached, please find a copy of a proposed policy on alternative schools that will be considered by the State Board of Education.  The single most notable aspect of this proposed policy is that it potentially does away with all out of school suspensions if there is any room in an alternative education program, meaning Washington, night school, or ISS.

There are at least two significant impacts this State policy, if adopted, will have on our school operations.  First, so long as there is space in the alternative school, even the most serious zero tolerance offenses will never result in an actual expulsion.  Brad just dealt with an especially dangerous student who has attacked teachers TWICE.  Under this new policy, we’d have to place him if space were available.

Second, this policy, if adopted, will take away the principal’s authority to send a student home for a even a single day for even the most disruptive of behaviors.  Instead, students must be assigned to ISS or night school – again, if space is available.  (Question – what happens if one school doesn’t have ISS or night school and yet another one does?  Do students get treated differently?)

The Administration and I can get to work revising existing policies to conform with this change in State law – once it is adopted.  However, it would be worthwhile for the Board to reach out to the delegation about this matter and ask if they are aware of this change in State policy.  The State DOE and Board maintain that this change is consistent with what the General Assembly enacted this past session, but I rather doubt that the General Assembly intended the State DOE and Board to go this far.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

D. Scott Bennett
Attorney at Law

Bennett &DeCamp,PLLC



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