Both sides say they want students to learn responsibility, but a parents' group and Nebo School District officials cannot agree on how to teach it.
"We have tried to discuss the problem," Vickie Newell, a Payson mother, said Tuesday. "Our next move will be to put out petitions. The school board thinks we are just a handful of troublemakers. We want to show them how many parents are really angry."In question is Nebo's year-old citizenship policy. It requires students to be punctual and attend classes at least 90 percent of the time or they will receive a U (unsatisfactory grade). They can also get a U for behavior deemed disruptive of the class or school. Vandalism, illegal use of controlled substances or other irresponsible acts will also earn students a U.
One citizenship grade is awarded by each teacher and one by the school administrator for each term. Students ending the year with more than two U's will not be allowed to graduate or advance to the next grade until they have cleared their records.
U's can be cleared from a record if the student wins an appeal, completes a five-hour makeup class with a $15 registration fee, or performs 10 hours of approved community service.
"We feel really good about the policy," said Dean Allan, director of secondary education. "The majority of the parents like it. It has reduced tardiness by 70 percent.
"We feel it is going to stand; we are just sorry all parents can't see the advantages to how it trains kids."
Newell admits children must learn responsibility, but believes the current policy provides only negative reenforcement.
"It makes the kids feel like criminals."
She said some teachers used the policy as a threat to hold over students' heads. She told of one teacher who reportedly walked in late on a rowdy class and gave each student a U for the term, whether they were disruptive or not.
"Some students appealed the decision, but for those who were too shy to fight, the U's stuck."
Allan said he had heard the story, but could not find any evidence it was true. He said Newell would not name the teacher she believed to be involved.
Newell said she has heard of students who got U's for wearing hats or chewing gum. Allan said he didn't know about the hat stories, but the student in the other incident had stuck chewing gum in a computer keyboard several times before he was given a U.
Newell said parents she has talked to are also angry about the $15 fee for the makeup class.
"It always falls back on the parents to pay. One student has 10 U's and his parents can't afford $150 to get their kid back into school."
She said several students were prohibited from starting classes last week because of U's they were given last year.
Allan said graduation or advancement to the next grade is a privilege, not a right. He said that as far as he knew, all students who were barred from advancement had made arrangements to work the U's off their records and were back in school.
Newell said parents do not believe it really costs $15 per child to pay a teacher $66 per session for each five-hour makeup class.
Allan said that in some areas, Nebo is losing money on the sessions because they were so sparsely attended.
"Anyone is welcome to come look at our (accounting) books," he said.
He said he's surprised the group is so upset because last June a group, including many of the same parents, studied the policy and approved it, largely unchanged.
"The group had administrators and teachers, but was mostly made up of parents and students. We don't understand why they approved it if they disagreed with it."
Newell said she and the other parents had been led to believe the policy would be more flexible.
"We walked away thinking we had made a few changes. Then a few weeks later, we got letters saying we had reaffirmed the same stand as last year."
Connie Carrasco, a Payson mother, said her boys have worked off U's, but remain disillusioned after dealing with the Nebo School District.
"When you get a certain number of U's, it's not worth trying anymore. My older son worked off nine U's this summer and my younger son worked off 12. One boy will stay in school, but the younger is too discouraged, so we are trying him in a home-study program.
"Being a teenager is hard enough already. This system only lowers their self-esteem more."