Nebo School District officials say the citizenship policy for secondary grades is effectively fulfilling its intended purpose, to reduce truancy and tardiness.
Lee Condie, district social worker and attendance director, recently conducted a study to determine if issuing truancy citations and assessing fines would be more effective in reducing truancies than the existing citizenship policy. Legislation allows school districts to issue citations for truancy. Condie determined that citations would not be any more effective in decreasing truancies."If we've only got about 1 percent having problems, then I'd say the policy is pretty effective in reducing truancy," Condie said.
Condie said that before the policy went into effect in 1986, he referred about 40 students per year to juvenile court for truancy violations. Now he refers only about three students a year to juvenile court.
"We're even being more effective with the citizenship policy than we thought we would be," said Larry Kimball, director of secondary education.
Students receive a U for more than one unexcused absence in one term, or for being tardy more than 10 percent of the time. Students can also receive U's for violating laws, destroying school property or displaying irresponsible behavior on school grounds or while participating in a school activity.
U's can be cleared by attending a four-hour citizenship class or by completing a four-hour pre-approved school or community project, plus paying a $10 fee. U's can also be made up by completing an eight-hour community proj-ect and paying a $2 fee.
Students with more than two uncleared U's by the middle of the following term are either suspended from school or referred to Landmark High School, the district's alternative high school. However, Kimball said, before referring a student to Landmark, district officials prefer to meet with parents and work out a solution to the problem. Landmark is the last resort for students unwilling to clear U's, he said.
"Very few kids are referred to Landmark just for that reason," Kimball said. "Some people may say they are, but most of them are being referred there because they are having difficulty in other areas."
Since its inception, the policy has been the target of criticism from several parent groups. The first year the policy was in effect parents complained that the fee charged for clearing U's was excessive. That fee has since been reduced from $25 to $10. In August a group of parents threatened to file a suit against the district if it did not allow students with uncleared U's to register for school.
Despite the criticism from some parents, district officials say the policy is widely praised by teachers, administrators, board members and parents.
"For every parent that says the policy is unfair, there are several times more than that who say it's the best thing the district ever did," Kimball said.
"I had one vice principal tell me that he would resign if the district ever did away with the policy," Condie said. "It gives those responsible for discipline a tool to work with."
The policy's effect
Nebo School District citizenship statistics as of Dec. 3, 1990:
Secondary grade enrollment 5,662
Students with no U's 4,418 78%
Students with 1 0r 2 U's 907 16%
Students with 3 or more U's 337 6%
Cleared by deadline 227 5%
Not cleared 60 1%