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Boston Mayor Convenes Meeting on Student Discipline

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Responding to recent violent incidents and concerns about student-discipline problems raised by a high-school headmaster and others in the Boston Public Schools, Mayor Raymond Flynn of Boston late last week called a meeting of top city and school officials to try to reach agreement on how to address the problem.

During the more than two-hour meeting, the Mayor, Schools Superintendent Lois Harrison-Jones, the School Committee's chairman, Paul Parks, and representatives of other youth and city agencies, agreed that a small number of violent and abusive students are disrupting the city's high schools and should be removed to an alternate setting, a spokesman for Mr. Flynn said.

However, no agreement was reached on the procedures for removing those students or where they should go, said Neil Sullivan, Mr. Flynn's chief policy adviser.

Mr. Flynn last week supported the views of an outspoken headmaster, Sidney Smith of the English High School, who, in an appearance before the school committee last week and in a letter to school officials, has advocated giving headmasters and principals the power to expel students.

"The Mayor's position is that in the case of violent or abusive behavior, especially in repeated [incidents], the headmasters should have the power to remove the students from the school,'' said Mr. Sullivan.

Mr. Flynn believes the lack of such empowerment is inconsistent with the district's support of site-based management, Mr. Sullivan added.

However, Ms. Harrison-Jones is not prepared to give building administrators that kind of power, said Mr. Sullivan.

Currently, only the superintendent may expel a student, and only after a series of hearings has been held.

The current expulsion procedure "takes too long,'' Mr. Smith said in an interview last week.

"It separates the infraction from the response [in a way that is] very ineffective and irresponsible,'' said Mr. Smith, who sits on a committee working to revise the discipline code.

In recent weeks, students have been stabbed and shot inside or just outside Boston schools.

Mr. Sullivan said Mayor Flynn is planning to meet with Gov. William F. Weld to discuss the cost of identifying violent and abusive high-school students and creating alternate educational settings for them.

Boston currently has a short-term education and counseling center for students caught with weapons other than guns. A similar center for students using weapons including guns has been proposed.

The same officials are to meet again this week, Mr. Sullivan said.

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