A complaint by a parent during a disciplinary hearing with the Decatur school board may lead to changes to the district’s graduation participation policy.
During a special meeting today, Dwight Satterfield, deputy superintendent of school safety and student services, said the board will consider a revision that will give it authority to override a principal’s decision to ban a student from participating in graduation.
The current Decatur City Schools policy bans students from graduation who are assigned to the alternative school or are not in what the principal considers good standing.
“There’s no way for a student to get their case to the board for a second look, but this will do that,” Satterfield said about the revision.
Another proposed revision would remove a section in the graduation policy that allows principals to keep students from participating in graduation who may have an “outstanding financial obligation” with the school.
“We can’t do this because it’s against state law,” Satterfield said.
He said it will be up to the board as to whether the revisions are effective immediately, which could impact some 2019 graduates assigned to the alternative school.
Board member Peggy Baggett, a former high school English teacher, said the board needs a firm policy, but a policy that is fair.
She pointed out that if a senior student violates a board policy in the first semester and is sent to alternative school, that student has time for redemption and would be eligible to participate in graduation.
If the same policy is violated in the second semester, especially near the end of school, and the student happens to be in alternative school, this student wouldn’t be allowed to participate in graduation, Baggett said.
“We want to get something firm, but with a little more clarity,” she said.
Besides the section dealing with students at the alternative school, the policy gives principals the authority to ban students from participating in graduation “if the student violates disciplinary standards or if, in the judgment of the principal, the student’s participation could lead or contribute to disorder or disruption of the ceremony or activity.”
Satterfield said the parent of a student pointed out what she believes to be the unfairness of the policy during a disciplinary hearing.
He said the proposed revision would give students a way to appeal decisions in writing to the board.
Satterfield said the current policy has “been around a long time” and only the board has the authority to change policy.
The board meeting today is at 4 p.m., and Superintendent Michael Douglas said he will also make some personnel recommendations.