After 3 1/2 hours of heated debate Thursday afternoon, a committee formed to rework the year-old Nebo School District citizenship policy left it almost unchanged.
The group of 28 parents, administrators, teachers and students was organized after angry parents protested the policy at May's school district meeting."We changed the language to clarify things in a few places," Dean Allan, director of secondary education, said. "But we didn't really change the policy much."
Students must still be punctual and attend classes at least 90 percent of the time or they will receive a U (nsatisfactory grade). They can also get a U for behavior deemed disruptive of the class or school. Illegal use of controlled substances, vandalism or other irresponsible acts will also earn students a U.
One citizenship grade is awarded by each teacher and one by the school's administrator each term. Students with U's on their records may not participate in extracurricular activities where they represent their school unless there has not yet been a reasonable opportunity for the student to make up the grade. Seniors ending the school year with more than two U's on their records will not be allowed to graduate until they have made restitution, nor will younger students be allowed to progress to the next grade.
Students can erase U's by attending scheduled five-hour citizenship makeup classes with a $15 registration fee, or by completing a school-approved 10-hour community-service project. Students who feel they have received U's unjustly may appeal.
At the school board meeting, many parents had been worried their seniors would not graduate because of the policy. It was underpublicized and unfairly administrated, they said, and costs for makeup classes were beyond students' means. The speakers said parents were either forced to pay or to lie in order to turn an unexcused absence into an excused one.
Administrators had said the 45 seniors in danger of not graduating had serious academic failures as well as citizenship problems. Since that meeting, all but four of the seniors have made up their U's and graduated.
"All four had between 15 and 17 U's," Lynette Valencia, Spanish Fork High School principal, said. "All said they had plenty of opportunity to make the U's up, but they knew they also had academic failures. Three didn't try to make up the U's, and one frankly started too late. She is working in our office now, and will get her diploma soon.
"For the most part, the policy is doing what it was designed to do - make students be there, be on time and behave."
"There were some death-bed repenters." Dennis Poulsen, Springville High principal, said. "But at my school, all who were academically able graduated."
Allan said the district had tried hard to publicize the new policy.
"We sent fliers home and passed them out at parent-teacher conferences, had notices published in the newspaper, and discussed the policy at student assemblies.
"The students knew about it, but you cannot force parents to read papers."
He added that 65 percent of students have followed the rules and have not received U's.
Some parents still wanted the fees lowered.
"I have heard the most complaints on cost," Pat Ellis, a Springville mother, said. "They are too high and the parents end up paying. Students who are in trouble generally miss more than one class, so it gets expensive fast. Parents are angry. You might want to lower the fee just as a public-relations gesture."
Beverly Burdett, a teacher at Springville High, disagreed.
"It should be difficult to pay the fee, not easy." She added that if the cost was low, students might decide they could afford to skip class.
"I cannot teach students who are not in class. And they can't just catch up by getting the notes from someone else. The lessons aren't just what the teacher says, they are the comments and thought-provoking questions of the other students. You have to be there."
"I wish we could raise the fee, but I will settle for not lowering it."
Several speakers wished parents could be notified of when their children were skipping school and jeopardizing their academic futures. Some of the principals said they had notified many parents, and it had not always helped.
"Is it the parent's responsibility or the child's to be accountable?" asked Reed Merrell, a Roy teacher visiting from the Weber school district. "If the students don't want to be responsible, shouldn't they pay the price?"
Merrell praised the Nebo district for "being on the cutting edge of excellency and efficiency."
In the end, the majority of committee members approved recommending the policy to the school board at its June 8 meeting with only a few clarifications.