Ten speakers, a mixture of proponents and opponents, tried to persuade Salt Lake Board of Education members Tuesday night to change their minds on a proposal to tighten the high school transfer policy.
But when the speeches were over, board members cast their votes in the manner that they had announced two weeks ago. They voted 4-2 to require high school students to attend high school for one semester before they can request a transfer to another school.Lorna Matheson and Alan Mecham opposed the revised policy. Board President Stephen Boyden, who often votes with the minority on boundary issues, was out of town.
But he sent a statement to the board saying he supports the transfer policy changes. Boyden said he still believes in open enrollment, but the controversial boundary issue must have sufficient time to rest before open enrollment will work.
Several board members made similar comments. Ron Walker said, "As soon as we have stability in the district, we can move to more flexibility."
The board decided to alter the policy after angry West High parents criticized the board in April because 12 incoming ninth graders, boys from the Federal Heights and Upper Avenues, had been granted transfers under the board's policy adopted last fall.
That policy recognized "unique hardship cases" for physical and psychological reasons. Unless granted a transfer, high school students must attend school in their assigned area.
The revised policy aims to reduce ambiguity in the language and the difficulty in administering it.
Before the vote, proponents of a stricter policy said parents had taken advantage of a weak policy, finding a loophole that allowed them to circumvent the high school boundaries.
Clayton Smith said parents who allow their children to escape uncomfortable situations thwart their growth. "We need to allow our children to experience growth. Healing and growth are not always painless processes."
In a letter read to the board, Larry Failner, former chairman of the South High Community Council, said the location of the transfers made it obvious that "the intent of the existing policy had been violated."
Opponents of the changes argued that the current policy worked because only 37 freshmen district-wide were granted transfers.
"There is no reason to change because there has been no abuse," said Karen Hammer.
East High freshman Sareah Gardner told the board that the one semester rule was too long, since even a month seems to drag on forever for a teenager.
Superintendent John W. Bennion said the new policy is flexible enough to allow transfers before a semester of attendance in an extraordinary circumstance.