Students attending Kearns and Skyline high schools this fall had better be concerned with their ABCs - academics, behavior and citizenship. All three will be considered as criteria for graduation.
The two schools will pilot a program that will require a citizenship credit as a condition for graduation. Granite District School Board has debated the issue for some time, and board members agreed Tuesday to let the two high schools experiment.Students will be expected to earn a portion of citizenship credit in each class. Failure to garner sufficient credit over the high school experience will preclude graduation. Provisions will be made to allow students to recoup credit lost by bad behavior.
Too much absenteeism or tardiness, irresponsible or aggressive behavior, discourtesy or breaking of school rules about tobacco, alcohol and drugs are among behaviors that could result in loss of citizenship credit.
Board members have been cautious about adopting a citizenship requirement that affects graduation because of potential legal challenges. Citizenship programs in other areas, but not in Utah, have raised such challenges.
District officials have checked Utah legal sources and believe they are on firm ground, said Associate District Superintendent Reilly O'Neil. In other Utah school districts where citizenship requirements have been imposed, the results have been positive, Haacke said. Better attendance and higher grade point averages have been reported.
Principals Richard H. Haacke of Kearns and David R. Richards, Skyline, told board members they want to take positive approaches to citizenship, not punitive ones. The objective of the program is to improve the school atmosphere and allow students who are serious about an education to study without the detriments caused by other students' bad behavior.
Both principals have been involved in the lengthy process of trying to develop citizenship criteria that are fair and effective. "We've gone as far as we can go without letting this touch the ground," Richards said.
School staffs, students, parents and administrators have all been involved in working out criteria, they said.
Guidelines separate academic and citizenship grades so a student's academic performance is not put in jeopardy by bad behavior. Teachers are counseled not to let a single student offense discredit citizenship, unless it is serious, and not to make judgments on citizenship while angry. The emotional state of the student at the time of an infraction is to be considered. Improvement in a student's behavior is to be a paramount factor in determining the citizenship grade.
Haacke noted that good citizenship has been a requirement for Granite District students historically. "It has been in our manuals, but it has never been defined," he said.
The two schools are to make periodic reports on the program over the next year, and board members will then evaluate and determine if it should be used in all the district's secondary schools, including junior high schools.