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August 17, 2015 Children, Sailing, Special Ed, York River

Sailing to Expelled Territory

On a breezy, sunny day three couples who never met had the time of their lives sailing the York River. We extended the run for an hour to enjoy the challenge of achieving speed on the water under sail.
Tom and Ann Cook of Fairfax, Virginia, were unusually intriguing because he’s an accomplished sailor and she’s an accomplished teacher. She seemed subdued along the way, and then it emerged why. She got a promotion of sorts at her middle school and this fall will begin teaching expelled students. I thought she meant to say suspended students, but no. This is uncharted territory.

“New laws in Virginia require that we try to teach those who were expelled until they graduate high school or turn 18. I’ll start with 12 students, mostly boys, but then it will ramp up. The idea is to begin by teaching them social skills that they may lack. That includes ‘restorative justice,’ where they admit they did something wrong and work on it.

“These kids are in middle school, and some of them only messed up once but it was enough to get them expelled. Mostly it’s drugs, but we’ve had some hard-core problems. They’re young and stupid, so they almost always get caught.”

To compound matters, the principal who hired her died over the summer from a car crash and she’ll have a new principal. “I’m a little apprehensive, but I can always fall back to my previous work teaching math and teaching Special Ed.” I asked Ann how many students she had last year in Special Ed. “Sixty, spread among five classes.” Everyone on the boat was floored by that figure. We sailed on in admiration.

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