Official: Waterbury suspensions went against district policy

New Haven

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — A surprising development concerning 156 suspensions handed out last Friday at Wilby High School because of violations to the school district’s dress code, which prohibits things like hoodies and hats. A Board of Education official tells News 8 many of those suspensions may not have followed school district policy.

“We didn’t follow the 4 steps that are right here in this policy,” said Bob Brenker, Chief Operating Officer for the Waterbury Board of Education.

Those steps state that if it’s a student’s first offense — that student should get a written warning — not a suspension.

The second offense is a detention and his/her parents will be notified.

A one-day suspension doesn’t come until the 4th time a student a violates the dress code. But, last Friday, the principal at Wilby High School gave out suspensions to all of those students without regard to their individual situations and how many times they had violated the dress code before, Brenker said.

“We didn’t follow our own policy,” Brenker said. “As adults, we should follow our own policy, too. So, now, we’ve taught students that if they do something wrong, it’s okay. They’ll be disciplined for it. But, what happens to the adults — the people who do the suspensions? We should know better.”

Brenker also said the suspensions were handed out last Friday, but he and other members with the Board didn’t find out until Monday — and that was because a parent called them. He wouldn’t comment on what, if any, disciplinary action the principal at Wilby High School may face because of this.

Students who were suspended are frustrated and angry.

“Honestly this whole dress code needs to go away,” said one suspended student.

Brenker wouldn’t go that far. He says the Board believes dress codes enhance the learning environments in schools. He just says in this case, many of the suspensions may have been handed out too soon….in violation of the Board’s own policy. That’s one of the reasons the one-day suspensions will be lifted from students’ records, Brenker said.

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