Monday night the Red River Parish School Board stuck to it’s policy of prohibiting high school seniors who have not met all of the requirements for graduation from walking with their classmates during commencement exercises. A motion to make an exception died for lack of a second.
Latoyia Hicks appeared before the board to ask that her daughter be allowed to “march with her classmates.” Her appeal to the school board, Hicks stated that her daughter had failed an End of Course Test although she had made good grades in biology and history. Hicks said of her daughter, “She is not a good test taker. The situation is not fair because she has done all other accomplishments. She has never had behavior problems.” Hicks added, “It is a big disappointment (for her) that she cannot walk at graduation.”
An Aunt of the student, Evelyn Hunt told the board, “She is not trying to get her diploma. She knows she cannot get that because of grades. I am merely here to ask that she be able to march with her classmate. That is a great feeling.” And Hunt said, “My niece does deserve to march by being successful in the classroom, not on the written test (the EOC).
Board member Valerie Cox made a passionate plea that the exception is granted in this case, Cox saying, “Why penalize students when they are making excellent grades in their courses. There are so many factors that we cannot weigh them all. My heart goes out to you.”
Cox claimed that a couple of years ago she had been told, “students were allowed to march as long as they agree to come back and take the test.” Superintendent Alison Hughes said she could not recall students in the past being allowed to march if they had not completed all of the requirements. Director of Student Learning, Karen Squires echoed the Superintendent and added, “Not all seniors have been successful and those were not allowed to march.”
Board member Kasandria White remarked, “Just last year a young man did not get an opportunity to march. We have had a number of students in the past who were not allowed to march.” Board member Cleve Miller said, “It is very difficult to do something like this. When the board put a policy in place, my effort is to try to enforce the policy. If we change tonight, we cannot do one thing this year and something else the next year. Always try to enforce the policy in place.
Cox called for the board to “vote on it now. Don’t take it under advisement. There will not be another board meeting before graduation.” Cox moved for the student to be allowed to march at graduation. She predicted the outcome when she said, “It dies for lack of a second. The motion dies for lack of a second.”
Board member White said, “It is important for the public to see that we enforce our policy. The EOC was not made by Red River Parish, but it is required.”
At the end of the discussion, Cox’s motion died for lack of a second. The result is that Latoyia Hicks’ daughter will not march at graduation because she had not completed all of the requirements for graduation.
It should be noted that this discussion could have been conducted by the board in executive session, meaning the public would not have been present for the deliberations. Hicks requested the open session and when questioned repeated that she desired the matter be taken up in an open meeting.
As the board concluded this item, member Valerie Cox left the meeting. She did not stay for another personnel matter that was discussed in executive session and she did not return for the conclusion of the public meeting. Cox left the Administration Building and was talking outside with the proponents of letting the student walk at graduation. Cox appeared visibly upset by the outcome. When asked if she would return to the meeting, Cox said, “I can’t go back in there. I am leaving now.”