Granite District's citizenship policy, initiated this year in the junior high schools, has the general support of parents. But a handful of dissenters told a district committee recently that the "one-size-fits-all" policy really doesn't in some instances.
A half-dozen mothers told the committee the attendance aspect of the citizenship policy, in particular, is troublesome at times. None of the complainants had anything negative to say about the "behavior" requirements of the policy, which has been implemented by degrees in the district over the past few years.Wendall Sullivan, director of high school operations, said the parents had sent letters to the district offices and were invited to speak before the citizenship committee about their concerns.
Sullivan said he doesn't know at this point how many senior students are short of citizenship credits needed for graduation. He will survey schools this week, he said. Most of the students, faced with the last-minute realization that the district is holding firm to the policy, do the necessary makeup work or community service to erase the unsatisfactory grades.
In the recent committee meeting, several of the parents said the citizenship policy is not really popular but that parents have not taken the effort to complain.
Sullivan said only five parents had complained at the district level, though some schools have had negative feedback.
The Deseret News is not using names of parents who addressed the committee, in an effort to protect young students from exposure of their personal problems.
One father told the committee that the policy created additional stress for his daughter, who was diagnosed as being clinically depressed. The girl skipped school for three weeks and the parents were not contacted, he said.
"The school accepted no responsibility," he said. "Three times, my daughter left school with the intent to commit suicide . . . The school's response was callous and uncaring."
Despite the severity of the girl's mental problems and the fact that she was receiving medical help, the school would not excuse absences and she got unsatisfactory citizenship grades, discouraging her from trying to recover the lost ground, he said. She ultimately dropped out of school.
Inflexibility in the policy, which does not recognize special needs, should be addressed, the father said.
A mother said her son missed school at times because he was ill and because of transportation problems. He has refused to make up the citizenship credits, jeopardizing his graduation.
"Schools are usurping the parents' roles," she said. "Parents know when their child is sick without the need for a doctor's statement." (The policy requires a doctor-signed excuse for any prolonged absence related to illness.)
The other complainants expressed concerns that related more to the process than the policy. They said they had provided legitimate doctor's excuses for a child's absence, but the unsatisfactory grades still showed up on report cards and they went through burdensome appeals processes to get the problems resolved.