The School District 2 board expelled a high school student Monday after an hourlong, closed-door deliberation on the student's infractions and whether those actions merited dismissal.
In open session, after the deliberations, the board voted unanimously to expel the student for using violence or coercion against other students; for using, purchasing or selling controlled substances; for disobeying school staff members; for damaging or stealing school or student property; and for forging a signature on school documents.
"It's really tough," said Terry Bouck, SD2 superintendent.
This is the first expulsion in Billings for Bouck, who joined the district over the summer, and the first for this board, which has been together in its current iteration for close to two years.
The last student expulsion in SD2 was in 2006.
An expulsion hearing is typically the last stop in a line of disciplinary action meant to help students reform their behavior and become more productive members of the student body.
The recommendation to expel comes from the superintendent and is then heard by the board. While school staff members and administrators have the authority to suspend students or take other disciplinary actions, only the school board can expel.
"Expulsion is any removal of a pupil for more than 20 school days without the provision of educational services and is a disciplinary action available only to trustees," reads the Montana law governing public educaiton.
When it gets to that point, it's a rather serious matter, Bouck said.
"They've impeded their own education as well as their peers'," he said. "It's the most severe cases."
In an expulsion hearing, trustees examine the evidence against the student and possibly call witnesses. If the student or family chooses, they can argue in their own defense or elect to have representation at the hearing. Neither a parent nor the student was present at Monday's hearing.
Expulsion cases are treated seriously because, by law, children in Montana are promised access to public education.
"The right to public education is the most significant claim on government that a minor possesses," said then-state superintendent of schools Nancy Keenan in 1998. "A student and his or her parents are entitiled to significant procedural protections before a school district can take away that right."
The student expelled Monday night has the right to petition the district to allow him back in.
Bouck said he was impressed with the board Monday night. Trustees asked thoughtful questions during the hearing and weighed the decision with seriousness, he said. And ultimately, they did the right thing.
"They made a tough decision," he said.