Gubernatorial candidate Merrill Cook has joined parents critical of the Nebo School District policy on citizenship grades.

The independent gubernatorial candidate spoke Monday at Springville High School to about 100 parents. Carolyn Hunt, spokeswoman for the group, said that when she "realized the (Nebo) school board wasn't going to work with us," she called several politicians, and Cook said he would do whatever he could to help.But a Nebo official says few parents have called him to discuss the school district's year-old citizenship policy.

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.

In Monday's meeting, Cook told the group, "citizenship is very important. And by coming here tonight, you have demonstrated what good citizens you are."

The parents are unhappy with the policy, which district officials say was designed to make students behave more responsibly.

Students with more than two unsatisfactory - or U - citizenship grades a year must attend makeup classes or perform community service.

Students who are late or absent more than the allowed number of times receive U grades. A student with more than two U's at the end of the year will not be allowed to graduate or advance to the next grade. Students can clear their records by winning an appeal, attending makeup classes with $15 registration fees, or performing community service.

Heather Wright, a senior at Spanish Fork High School, said she earned her U's by being a total of two minutes late to classes.

"I was 15 seconds late one day, 30 seconds late the next day. We are not machines. The policy needs to be a little flexible."

Wright worked her U's off by raking leaves.

"I don't need to go to school to learn to rake leaves. I go to school for an education. Education needs to be more educational and less janitorial.

"The district needs to trust those who are trustworthy. We are not all radical, misbehaving kids, but we are human. The district has decided the way to make sure no one will abuse their rights is to make sure no one has any rights."

She said no one can learn responsibility without freedoms.

Cook said the fee for the makeup class sends the wrong signals.

"It belittles the U to attach a price to it. And does it mean if I have $15 to pay I am a good citizen again?"

Cook suggested the group concentrate on electing someone sympathetic to their cause to the school board.

"I am convinced write-in campaigns work. I wish good luck to yours and mine."

Organizers presented a 1,500-name petition to Cook in hopes he could get Nebo School District authorities to reconsider the policy. They also asked him for a donation to help pay the fee for renting the auditorium.