Thirteen year old Shakaijah Calvin had been out of school for more than a month after O’Farrell Community Charter School kicked her out for a string of problems. Her mother Mavis Thompson rattled off her misdeeds: Not wearing the right uniform. Swiping a cell phone from a classmate.
But when Thompson showed up to enroll her daughter at her neighborhood public school, Bell Middle, the principal turned her away. He gave her a terse, handwritten note to for the O’Farrell school director.
“I will no longer be accepting your students in the middle of the school year,” it read.
Shakaijah was smack in the middle of the gap between charter school and school district rules on how to handle misbehaving students. Though O’Farrell kicked Shakaijah out under its own rules, her future was still in the hands of San Diego Unified, which ultimately oversees O’Farrell and other charter schools.
The school district didn’t agree Shakaijah should be expelled, because it sets a higher bar for expulsion. It couldn’t send her to an alternative school for expelled students. It couldn’t send her back to O’Farrell either. So instead, San Diego Unified sent her down the road from her apartment to Bell.
But Bell Principal Michael Dodson was sick and tired of getting troublesome students in the middle of the year, though he said they’d be welcome to return in the fall. Thirty-one students had already transferred to Bell midyear from nearby charters, Dodson said. Some were actually removed like Shakaijah was; others voluntarily switched to Bell to avoid being kicked out under charters’ stricter rules.