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Saturday, July 26, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 71.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
The Daily

EDUCATION

Bailey Corcoran got nabbed under Madison's old zero-tolerance policy
Life after expulsion from high school

Bailey: 'I don't talk to a lot of the kids from La Follette anymore because I didn't stay connected to them.'
Bailey: 'I don't talk to a lot of the kids from La Follette anymore because I didn't stay connected to them.'
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When Bailey Corcoran entered La Follette High School in the fall of 2011, her big sister was a senior and she hung out with the same friends she'd had since kindergarten. She was excited about the football games and proms in her future and was looking forward to playing volleyball.

But then she was caught on school grounds drinking from a soda bottle spiked with alcohol and passing it to another student. She was suspended in late November and officially expelled on Feb. 13, 2012, through the 2013 school year.

Bailey was allowed to apply for early readmission and returned to La Follette for a couple of months in the fall of 2012. But she says it never felt the same.

"Everyone just looked at me like I was this horrible person," she says. "I decided that wasn't for me."

Bailey subsequently tried to get into McFarland and Monona Grove high schools, but they both turned her down, says her mother, Torey Corcoran.

Bailey has since landed at Shabazz High School, which she says she loves.

"There's a community there," she says. "All the teachers are so respectful of you." She also likes the smaller classes, which she says allows more "hands-on education."

But some things were lost forever. "I don't talk to a lot of the kids from La Follette anymore because I didn't stay connected to them."

Bailey was one of 12 students expelled from the Madison School District in the 2011-2012 school year. The small group amounted to 6.3% of the 189 students recommended for expulsion, according to school district data.

Her violation -- Sec. 402 (a) under the district's former Student Conduct and Discipline Plan -- was the same offense faced by Maia, the East High School freshman Isthmus recently profiled.

But unlike Maia -- who was allowed to return to school the day after the school board adopted a revised conduct policy for elementary and middle/high school students -- Bailey was banned under the old guidelines.

Shortly after being expelled, Bailey got a part-time job at McDonald's, which she says eased the loss of school.

"That helped me get my mind off not going to school and sitting at home and being bored out of my mind," she says.

She wishes the whole incident had been handled differently by the district.

"What would have helped is a group meeting with counselors, talking about what went wrong and why it went wrong and not just kicking me out of school and taking my education from me for a whole half a year," she says.

Had the new conduct guidelines for the district been in place, Bailey might have gotten just that.

Possessing and distributing alcohol is no longer an offense that requires an automatic recommendation for expulsion. Instead, it would trigger "intensive intervention," along with suspension.

These "intervention strategies" could include enrollment in a "social emotional learning group for anger management, anxiety reduction, substance abuse, social skills [and] positive leadership."

Other options include a "problem-solving conference with parent and student" as well as participation in "mediation/conflict resolution" and restorative justice activities.

Martin Corcoran, Bailey's father, is glad the district has shifted away from its zero-tolerance policy. But he remains bitter about its impact on his own family.

He says he is concerned that Bailey is not receiving as academically rigorous an education at Shabazz as she would have at La Follette and what that might mean for her future after high school.

"Our family is still recovering from what the Madison school district did to our daughter," he says. "It served neither the child nor the larger school community."

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