By Bob Weaver

The Calhoun school system has a new policy regarding expulsions, no longer making public what the school board has approved or disapproved during executive sessions.

Two expulsions are listed for a special meeting on February 20.

The issue appears to be a violation of the state's open meetings law. Those laws have required a member of the body to state what action was taken during an executive session.

Several regional superintendents say they make public the outcome of closed executive decisions regarding expulsions.

School superintendent Roger Propst says the change is to further protect the confidentiality of students, who have already been given a confidential number and are unnamed.

Previously, following executive sessions regarding expulsions, the board would announce whether or not the unidentified student would be expelled, and sometimes the terms and conditions regarding the expulsion would be given.

Gilmer and Wirt County superintendents Ron Blankenship and Daniel Metz said their school board's handling of expulsions makes the public aware of the action.

"The details regarding the problem are being heard in executive session, then the decision is announced in open meeting," said Jackson County superintendent Blaine Hess.

Propst says legal counsel has advised that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Regulations (FERPA) trumps West Virginia's laws, advising that no information be provided.

"We are only concerned with protecting the identities," Propst said.

Heather L. Deskins, General Counsel, Office of Legal Services for the West Virginia Department of Education said, "The county is acting appropriately," citing excerpts related to public meetings under the Open Government Proceedings Act.

Propst said at a future time, the school system would release the number of students expelled.

The recent audit of the West Virginia school system critically says the state system is likely the most over regulated system in the US, requiring an extraordinary number of bureaucrats to maintain regulations.

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