By Jessica Williams, The Lens staff writer |

To make expulsion hearings more equitable for Recovery School District students, the state-run agency will coordinate hearings at its 66 New Orleans schools through a central office.

The RSD Expulsion Hearing Office, once responsible for conducting hearings only at schools the district runs directly, will now oversee hearings for students at its charter schools as well. The move comes three years after media reports questioned data on the expulsion rates at some charter schools.

The change was approved last week at a meeting of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“Much like the unified enrollment system, the RSD’s new expulsion hearing process will help ensure a consistent, equitable process for every student in the district,” RSD spokeswoman Kizzy Payton wrote in an emailed statement. “Schools will maintain their autonomy to build a positive culture, and students’ families will have a uniform experience regardless of where they are enrolled.”

The email did not respond to a reporter’s inquiry as to whether the policy change was a response to complaints about expulsion inequities.

While state data recorded only four student suspensions at the RSD’s east bank charter schools in 2009, school administrators at those schools said the actual figure was higher, according to The Times-Picayune.

The new policy takes effect Aug. 1.

Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams stays on top of the city's loosely organized collection of public schools, with a special emphasis on charter schools. In 2011 she was recognized by the Press Club of New Orleans for her reporting on charter school transparency and governance. In 2012, she was part of a team that received a National Edward R. Murrow Award for their work following a New Orleans family's recovery after Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Edna Karr Secondary School in Algiers, and she obtained her bachelors degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. She can be reached at (504) 575-8191.