School District 2 trustees expelled two middle school students Monday.
Discussion of the expulsions occurred in closed session. Trustees unanimously publicly voted to follow superintendent Terry Bouck's recommendations.
Bouck said after the meetings that the issues involved student safety.
"It's very hard on the board members," Bouck said. "They weigh everything very carefully."
The expulsions were the fifth and sixth in Billings Public Schools since 2006, with the most recent in 2015.
Bouck declined to provide specific details about any incidents that led to the expulsion hearing, instead pointing to the district's student code of conduct, which prohibits things like making threats, having possession of drugs or weapons and disruptive learning environments.
He declined to say which school the students were from, noting that it was one school. Administrators from Riverside Middle School attended both meetings and did not speak during public sessions.
Trustees were trained on student disciplinary procedures before the public was barred from the meeting because of student privacy laws. Jeff Weldon, a private attorney who often represents the school district, noted that expulsions have a lower burden of proof than criminal proceedings, requiring a "preponderance of evidence."
An expulsion hearing is typically the last stop in a line of disciplinary actions meant to help students reform their behavior and become more productive members of the student body.
In an expulsion hearing, trustees examine the evidence against the student and can call witnesses. If the student or family chooses, they can argue in their own defense or elect to have legal representation at the hearing. Neither student nor their parents attended Monday's hearings.
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.
One reason expulsion cases are treated seriously is that children in Montana are promised access to public education by law.