Teachers and administrators in Christian schools face any number of issues that make teaching very difficult. In my experience, one issue is the decision about when to expel a student.
This decision poses unique difficulty for Christian educators for a number of reasons. Christian schools, in my experience, strive toward the goal of creating a Christian community of learning. These communities seek to include the widest possible spectrum of students—students who come to school with a great variety of personalities, a great diversity of life journeys and experiences, and a wide range of learning styles and challenges. These students are typically welcomed into the school community because of the school’s conviction that all God’s children deserve the opportunity of an education that will prepare them for lives of faith and Christian service.
Christian schools have both the opportunity and the reason for providing this kind of education for the many different students that enter their buildings every day. These students are God’s children, deserving of the greatest respect and the best education that the school is able to provide. As one mother said to me during my days as an administrator, as we were standing in the school entrance welcoming students as they came off their buses and poured into the building, “We can never forget that God loves each one of these kids. And the fact that they are here makes this school holy ground.” And so teachers in Christian schools do all within their power to serve their students well and to include them in a strong and vibrant Christian community.
When things go awry, as they will in any human interaction, the school community stands ready to forgive, to restore, and to extend grace to those students who struggle, often to their own detriment and occasionally to the detriment of those around them. Sometimes those struggles are related to academic work, but perhaps more often they are related to behavioral issues. And sometimes it seems as though our very best efforts to support these students are in vain, and the difficulties they face and the difficulties they cause seem to continue unabated. The question then arises of whether the student should be allowed to continue to attend the school. The deeper question is this: If these students are God’s children and if the school is really “holy ground,” how can we as teachers and administrators determine the limits of our commitment to serve these students, especially if they appear unwilling to accept the service that we offer?
John: A Case Study
A practical example, perhaps, will illustrate the point. John is in 11th grade. He has come to the local Christian high school from a rather dismal experience in 10th grade at a neighborhood high school. He comes from a strong, faithful Christian family, and his parents really want him to be in a Christian school. For a number of reasons John became involved with “the wrong crowd” in his previous school. As a result, his academic performance, which had been strong in his elementary school and in his first year of high school, became a problem.
Gary VanArragon is a retired high school administrator and former editor of the Christian Educators Journal.