The Grade Blog

Wednesday, Apr 09 2014 07:03 PM

North High rally leads to public apology to seniors

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    North High School senior Dylan Newsome attended a Tuesday senior assembly where students potentially unable to graduate were singled out and asked to leave. Newsome, who was not one of the students named, does not believe classmates should have been identified in that manner.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Jose Lopez, a senior at North High School, attended a school assembly where seniors potentially unable to graduate were singled out and asked to leave. Lopez is on track to graduate but felt bad for the other students.

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BY LAUREN FOREMAN Californian staff writer lforeman@bakersfield.com

Administrators at North High School made phone calls and classroom rounds Wednesday apologizing to seniors named by a truancy officer as failing during a Tuesday pre-graduation rally.

One of two truancy officers who ran part of the senior program stopped the event to ask 30 seniors to leave the gymnasium because they were not eligible to graduate. With dean of students Dustin Green present, the students were called by name as a form of motivation to other seniors.

"It was a very poor choice," said John Teves, a spokesman for the Kern High School District.

Teves said the school normally hosts two assemblies -- one for graduating seniors and one for students deemed ineligible to graduate. The purpose of the second assembly is to inform students of the steps needed in order to graduate. There are about 350 students in the North senior class.

Students attending the event said in interviews Wednesday many of the seniors singled out will likely graduate anyway because they are missing only minor requirements easily fulfilled through the school's online credit recovery program known as APEX.

Dylan Newsome, a senior who attended the rally, said six of the students named finished their requirements that same day.

"They humiliated them..." he said. "I don't think it was right for them to do it right in front of everybody."

Montana McCright, one of the seniors named during the rally, said she failed an elective class her freshman year but would, in fact, graduate once she completed the APEX coursework.

She said the truancy officer did not name students who were failing because they cut too many classes or were disciplined too many times. Instead, they "degraded" students who were just short of graduation eligibility.

"I'm going to graduate so I think it was unfair that they called my name," McCright said.

Other students complained that listing student names and academic standing without parental consent violated federal law.

The U.S. Department of Education states on its website that schools "may disclose, without consent, 'directory' information such as a student's name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance.'" That explanation, a summary of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, does not include student grades.

Teves said he didn't know if the incident was a breach of law.

"I know it was a breach of sensitivity," he said.

The district is looking into student sensitivity training for some staff members, but it remains to be seen whether disciplinary action will be taken against the two truancy officers.

"We're right now just concentrating on putting the relationships back together with our students, the seniors and their parents," Teves said.

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