Recently Lynn Rogers, a USD 259 (Wichita public school district) board member, made this statement: “I know there are kids from many Catholic schools that have come to public schools when the Catholic schools have kicked them out.”
This attitude reflects a common perception or myth: that private and religious schools kick out the misbehaving students they don’t want to deal with. Since the public school system, by law, must accept them, these problem students are a reason why the public schools have such a difficult task. So goes the story, anyway.
I have read that this perception is false, so I decided to do some investigation on my own. The Kansas State Department of Education website can supply the number of students expelled from schools each year, not only for the public schools, but for some private and religious schools too.
As it turns out, the average number of students expelled from the Wichita Catholic Diocese schools is a little less than five per year. The Diocese covers an area much larger than Wichita, and presumably some of these expelled students didn’t live within the boundaries of USD 259. Given that, plus the fact that there just aren’t very many students expelled from the Catholic schools each year, accepting them can’t be much of a burden to a large school district like the Wichita public schools.
The statistics I looked at are revealing in another way: expulsions, adjusted for the number of enrolled students, are much more frequent in the Wichita public schools. For the eleven years shown in the following table, the Wichita public school system expels students at a rate nearly ten times higher than does the Wichita Catholic Diocese.
I wonder if the USD 259 board member who made the statement quoted at the beginning of this article is ignorant of these facts. Or perhaps the board member simply believes, without critical thought or investigation, the myths told about public schools. Or perhaps there is another explanation.