Palo Alto Weekly: Sequoia District dropout rate falls
Publication Date: Jan 19, 1994

SCHOOLS: Sequoia District dropout rate falls

District sees 60 percent reduction; now looking at expulsions

Elizabeth Darling

The number of students dropping out of school has continued to dive in the Sequoia Union High School District, according to numbers released last week. A total of 338 students were reported as dropouts during the 1990-91 school year compared with 136 in 1992-93. That's a reduction of 202 students, or 60 percent. While district officials say much of that can be attributed to more accurate recording procedures, they also point to a wide range of programs available to keep students in school.

"The major reason is the procedures of collecting data," said Charlie Mendoza, the district's director of student personnel services. But he added that contributing factors were programs designed for at-risk students, including counseling and a push to ensure early success for ninth graders.

"(These) have been used to try to address the needs of the kids who might drop out," he said.

During the 1992-93 school year, 26 students dropped out at Menlo-Atherton High School, 23 left Carlmont, 52 left Sequoia and 22 dropped out of Woodside. Thirteen dropped out of Redwood High, the district's continuation school for at-risk students. Compared with 1990-91, Menlo-Atherton's dropout rate decreased by 61 percent, Woodside's by 69 percent, Sequoia by 42 percent, Carlmont by 39 percent, and Redwood by 82 percent.

Districtwide, the highest dropouts were among Latino students, who are the majority at four of the five high schools.

The school district is also analyzing its expulsions of students. It will take part in a Safe School Planning workshop next month to train school administrators and teachers, and develop teams, including law enforcement, to work toward creating safe schools and curbing inappropriate student behavior.

Last year, district-wide, 42 students were formally expelled. So far in this school year 15 students have been expelled. State law mandates that certain violations of the education code warrant automatic expulsion. In other cases, school principals have more leeway.

Sequoia has three degrees of expulsion: short-term (usually one semester); extended (usually 1-2 semesters) and suspended expulsion, when a student is allowed to remain in school and is not actually expelled.

All students recommended for expulsion go through a hearing process and expulsions ultimately must be approved by the school board. Students are expelled from all schools in the district for the given period and then are permitted, if they meet certain conditions, to request to return to their home school or transfer to another.

Reasons for expulsion include possession of a gun, knife or other weapon, robbery or extortion, assault, assault with serious injury, drug use or possession, or other reasons. In 1992-93, 23 expulsions were assault-related. Nine were for possession of a gun or knife and three were for possession of other weapons. Four students were expelled for committing robbery or extortion, two for assault with injury, 10 for drug-related reasons, and nine for other reasons.

From July through December of 1993, four expulsions were related to gun or knife possession, nine were related to assault, one related to drugs, and one for an unspecified reason. 

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