About 45 Nebo School District seniors who skipped school or broke other citizenship rules now fear they will be barred from graduating in two weeks.
School officials argue the young people knew they were breaking rules and were told how to clear their records. If they have chosen not to make amends, they will have to "pay the piper," officials said."We initiated the new policy to make students more responsible and to make classes run more smoothly," Dean Allan, director of secondary education, said at this week's Nebo district meeting. "The children need to learn responsibility, not only for school, but for life."
Ada Chabries, a parent from Spanish Fork, said school officials are acting unfairly.
"The students who get the unsatisfactory grades are the ones who are having other problems. We must allow the youth to be human. We should not kick them when they're down."
In question was the school district's year-old citizenship policy. The program requires children earn citizenship credits in addition to regular academic credits. Students receive a U (unsatisfactory) for being absent more than 10 percent of the time, for being tardy more than 10 percent of the time, for illegal use of controlled substances, vandalism, or for other irresponsible behavior on school property.
Students with U's are barred from extra-curricular activities and are prohibited from graduating if U's make up more than 5 percent of their total citizenship grade.
They may clear the U's from their records by taking an after-school class with a $15 fee, or by performing community service. Students who believe they have unjustly received U's may appeal. Allan said parents and students were informed of the new policy on numerous occasions.
Several parents were concerned about seniors whose graduations are jeopardized because of U's. Principals from Spanish Fork, Payson and Springville told parents that all those in danger because of citizenship grades are also in trouble because of academic failures. They also said all seniors in danger of not graduating still have options that would allow them to get their diplomas with their class, or by the end of the summer.
Other parents thought the program is destructive.
"Many parents and children have struggled with the program," said Pat Ellis, a parent from Springville. "It's not just making problems for the troublemakers. Many students work after school. If they take time off work to attend the make-up class, they lose wages. They must pay for the class, so they lose money again.
"Students begin to resent and distrust their teachers, and the whole system breaks down."
Allan said only 35 percent of students have problems keeping citizenship rules, and the program has cut tardiness by 70 percent.
Vickie Newell, a mother from Payson, said the policy punishes parents.
"The $15 fee is out of the reach of most students. The parents end up paying, which doesn't make the kids any more responsible. Some parents end up writing notes that falsely excuse their children for missed time from school. The program is accomplishing nothing but to turn parents into liars."
Janelle Laker, a mother from Genola, said everyone was missing the point of the program.
"Citizenship includes learning to live within rules or working to change them. It is not citizenship to complain about the punishment after you have chosen to break the law. Parents should not say `I don't think it is a good rule, so I will lie and help you break it.' I am concerned about the kind of message that sends.
"In life, we experience the consequences of our actions. That is the message our children need to get."
The meeting was attended by about 70 parents, one of whom presented a petition signed by 300 others who want the board to rethink its policy. The Nebo School District will hold a meeting to review the citizenship policy at 1 p.m. on June 2 in the district headquarters. The public is invited to attend.