Dozens of Boston students who face the prospect of being kicked out of school this year as soon as they turn 22 received a political boost Monday.
City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George said she will be introducing a hearing order at the Council’s weekly meeting on Wednesday that advocates allowing students who reach their 22nd birthday during the school year to stay in classes for the remainder of the year.
While the City Council has no official role in changing the policy, Essaibi George said she hopes the attention will convince the School Committee to revise a policy that immediately forces students out of school when they turn 22, even if they are just a few months away from realizing their dreams of earning a diploma. Many of these students are fairly recent immigrants or have profound disabilities. About 100 students in 16 schools face immediate removal before this school year ends.
“It’s very unfortunate,” Essaibi George said in an interview. “We know how important it is to have a high school diploma.” Although the policy has been on the books for two decades, the School Department this year decided to enforce it. Previously, the School Department often ignored the policy and gave individual schools the flexibility to keep over-age students enrolled if administrators believed they were on track to graduate.
City Councilor Kim Janey said she believes a one-size-fits-all approach to a maximum age cut-off for schooling doesn’t work and that the policy should be revised so that schools, at minimum, can decide on a case-by-case basis if students should be able to stay.
“I think there is compelling reason to look at this,” she said. “Many of these students who are 22 or older are late-arriving immigrants and speak a language other than English and need extra support.”
Dan O’Brien, a School Department spokesman, said interim Superintendent Laura Perille plans to give the School Committee an update on the policy at its meeting Wednesday.
“The district has been working on a solution to this problem for sometime,” said Michael Loconto, School Committee chairman. “We look forward to hearing about what the district has for potential outcomes to resolve this issue.”
Boston school officials have been working with departing students on opportunities to take part in other programs outside the school system. “The mayor remains committed to ensuring that students in Boston are best equipped with the knowledge, skills and training to prepare them for success in their future,” said Samantha Ormsby, a mayoral spokeswoman. “That is why BPS is working with students who are approaching age 22 on individualized transition academic plans to allow for them to continue their education and career training.”
Boston Adult Technical Academy, a small alternative high school in Bay Village, has been disproportionately affected by the policy because it caters to a student population between the ages of 19 and 22. Administrators and teachers have been trying to get the policy change since last year, when the School Department initially sought to strictly enforce it, prompting the School Committee to grant a one-year reprieve
Essaibi George said mid-year booting of students can also be emotionally traumatic for students with disabilities, abruptly ripping them from their supportive-school communities and instead of allowing them to leave at the end of a school year. , which would be a more natural.l ending point for their educations and could provide a smoother transition to their next phase in life.
“I hope we are not making decisions like this based on budget situations,” she said.