Stonington works on graduation ban policy

Stonington - The school board's Policy Committee is creating a policy that will spell out what type of offenses will bar seniors from participating in their graduation ceremony, including incidents that take place off campus and on weekends.

Last week, committee members and Superintendent of Schools Van Riley agreed that it makes sense to consider what students do outside of school as well. If approved, the policy would be in effect for the June 2014 graduation ceremony.

While all graduating students get their diploma, Riley said it is a privilege to walk in the ceremony.

"I think it's a good standard to set. If they want to go through the formal ceremony, they have to behave in a certain way," he told committee members.

Currently, there is no policy that decides if a student should be allowed to participate in the ceremony.

According to the draft of policy discussed last week, students would not be allowed to participate in the ceremony if they cause more than $100 in damage to school property, have a drug/alcohol or weapons policy violation as a senior or have five or more days of suspension in the second semester.

But committee member and Board of Education Chairwoman Gail MacDonald pointed out that a student could be arrested in an off-campus incident that may be worse than an in-school one that would get a student banned from graduation.

"So how do we handle that?" she asked.

"We can only control what we can," answered high school Assistant Principal Mark Friese.

But MacDonald said that a student who hosts a drinking party on the weekend and gets arrested would now be able to participate in graduation while a student who gets caught drinking on campus would be barred.

"It would end up that the only kid prohibited from walking is the kid who's not smart enough to do a crazy thing off campus," she said. "If this is truly about holding kids up to a standard then it should be both in and out of school."

The discussion is reminiscent of a one the board had several years ago when it implemented a controversial drug and alcohol policy for sports and extracurricular activities which allows school officials to take into account out of school offenses when determining whether a students should be allowed to participate in a game.

Riley agreed with MacDonald and said he would revise the proposal and bring it back to committee.

"It's not too difficult to tie the Saturday night party to what happens in school," he said, adding that would occur if discussions about the party is distracting students and interfering with instruction.


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