A Nebo official says few parents have called him to discuss the school district's year-old citizenship policy. One angry parent says many have tried; the official refuses to listen.
Dean Allan, Nebo director of secondary education, said he expected more calls after parents packed a school board meeting this month to complain about the policy.The citizenship policy requires students to attend class and be punctual at least 90 percent of the time, or they will receive "unsatisfactory" citizenship grades. Disruptive behavior also will earn a student a U. Students with more than two U's in a year will not advance or graduate.
"Things got kind of nasty at the board meeting," Allan said. "There was picketing outside and shouting inside. Since then, we haven't heard much from the parents. They are not talking to anyone in this office to try to solve the problem. Their tactic is to keep the pot boiling and do everything they can to disrupt the district. We wish they would deal with us directly."
This was news to Vickie Newell, a parent concerned about the policy.
"I have talked to many parents who have tried to reach Dean Allan or his brother, Collin Allan, head of the school board," Newell said. "Parents have tried to call or visit, and they can't get through."
She said parents believe the policy has been abused by some teachers who have given U's for chewing gum or drinking soda in class, wearing hats or missing school because of illnesses parents forgot to report.
"We realize discipline is important. We just want our kids to be treated fairly. This system is not being administered fairly."
Parents also want the $15 fee for the makeup class - one way to clear a U from the record - to be eliminated.
Allan said he had heard the group was circulating a petition, but he had not seen it. He also said few parents have reported specific cases of abuse.
"One person talked to me after the board meeting, and I referred the case to the principal but have not heard what happened."
Newell said her group gave its last petition to the board and never saw it again, so it is giving its current petition, signed by about 1,500 students and taxpayers, to Merrill Cook, an independent gubernatorial candidate who has promised to help parents fight the policy.
She said many parents told board members specific stories of abuse of the policy but no action was ever taken.
"We asked the school board members what they had done with the complaints we gave them before. They just looked at us. They didn't have an answer." Her group is now collecting "affidavits" from students.
Allan said there has been more positive response on the citizenship policy than on anything else he has worked on for the Nebo district.
"We have gotten calls from many different organizations and church groups. The start of this school year has been one of our best ever. Students were in school and ready to learn. Most of them are mature enough to see the advantages of the policy."
Newell said about 400 students were barred from school because of excessive U's on their records. She knew of two cases where students were allowed back to school only last week, she said.
"They have missed a month of school, but the teachers expect them to be all caught up."
Allan said only 20 or 30 students were refused registration last month. In an earlier interview, he said such students would be allowed to work off their U's, transfer to an alternative high school, or, if 16 or older, leave school. Newell said the school system should be more helpful to students.
"What are all those kids doing who are not in school? You should keep kids out of school who don't want to be there. Those who do want to be there should be accommodated."
Allan said the citizenship policy has cut tardiness and absenteeism by 70 percent.
"We heard from the parents at the board meeting. Now the board will hear from administrators.
"If the board members think any change is appropriate, they will make it at the next Nebo School District meeting. The board will not be railroaded into action. They will consider changes only if they are in the best interest of the children.
"I cannot speak for them, but I don't think there is much need for change."