Understanding Fresno Unified's disciplinary process

Kate Nemarich Image
Saturday, March 25, 2023

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- ABC30 brought you a story earlier this month about two moms who shared a bond after their children were bullied at local schools, the incidents both posted online. That story generated a lot of questions about how these types of situations are handled.

The process for discipline in Fresno Unified School District has a lot of layers and is determined by the student involved, said Nikki Henry Chief Communications Officer for Fresno Unified. FUSD has to consider its own policy along with the state education code. Per the state, there are only 5 reasons a student must get a referral for expulsion.

"Possessing a firearm. It's brandishing a knife at another person, it's selling drugs," said Henry. "It is a sexual battery or sexual assault or possession of an explosive."

If the incident does not meet those criteria, it's up to the discretion of the school district to determine if the child presents an ongoing danger to themselves or other people in the building. After a referral for expulsion is issued, there is an investigation and the case is presented to a panel.

"They have this hearing, there are witness statements, there are character letters, there are interviews with the school site, there are interviews with teachers who interact with them, all of this kind of laid out, as you would see in court," said Henry.

That panel then makes a recommendation for or against expulsion to the school board. Before it gets to that point, Henry said they want to connect kids with resources to address the problematic behaviors.

Corrina Delgado is a Restorative Practices Counselor at Fresno High School. She works with students on conflict management skills and addresses issues before they bubble over into fights, physical or otherwise.

"We don't, you know, shy students away from conflict, necessarily, we, we want to teach them that it is normal, natural and necessary, but it's how we address it, how we move through it, right, that's gonna give us those skills, to be able to manage it," said Delgado.

Delgado said most of her work is proactive and preventative, rather than reactive, but that's not always the case.

"If there are issues within a club or a sports team, I could be invited in, I've been invited in to hold a circle to kind of address that conflict, and repair any of the harm that may have been done," said Delgado.

If problems require disciplinary action, Delgado said that is handled by administrators.

Something Henry wanted to emphasize is that disciplinary action has to be kept confidential, but as a parent herself, she understands why that can be frustrating when your child has dealt with bullying.

"And I just want to validate that that's really frustrating as a parent, and it's also a law for the privacy of our minors," said Henry. "So it's it's a hard situation, and it's frustrating, but I want to make sure our parents know that we are taking disciplinary action."

Henry and Delgado said they're focused on prevention. For students who do experience bullying, Henry said it's important for students and parents to document it and inform the school so the issue can be addressed and kids can be connected with resources.