On Monday night the Red River Parish School Board changed a long-standing policy to allow three or four students who did not complete all of the requirements for graduation to walk across the stage with their classmates. Similar arguments from parents in prior years had been turned aside as the board cited “policy” in not letting them walk.
An impassioned, emotional plea was made by Patrice Levi on behalf of her son and the other students. Her basic argument was that the student had gone through school in the parish beginning in pre-K, so her son had earned the right to walk across the stage. Levi said, “I want the board to allow my son to march at graduation, put on the cap and gown, turn that tassel, and have the feeling of accomplishment.” She acknowledged that her son had not met all of the requirements, that he had failed the EOC (State mandated End of Course tests) but had passed all other requirements for getting a diploma.
Levi added, “My greatest fear is that he goes to summer school this summer and he again fails the (EOC) test. I want him to pass. He wants to march with his class. This has been very stressful for me and the other parents who have gone through it.”
Board member Valerie Cox spoke up on behalf of the students. Cox read a petition that was circulated by the Class of 2019. Cox said the petition had signatures of 200 classmates asking that the students be allowed to walk at graduation. Cox told the board, “The EOC has been a struggle for this student. It is insulting, psychologically damaging for the child to be denied the privilege because of the EOC.”
Cox stated that the board had made exceptions in the past. “I don’t know why we have to be so strict and harsh,” she said. And Cox added, “I am asking you (the board) to comply with the parents’ wishes, asking for an opportunity that the kids deserve. We can allow students to participate in a ritual, that’s all it is a ritual. Why not allow them that honor?”
Cox made a motion that the School Board make an exception and allow the students to march. That motion died for lack of a second.
Board Member Cleve Miller said he could not vote for Cox’s motion. Miller said, “If this board does anything different from the policy, we are violating the policy. The point is is the board willing to change the policy?”
Then Miller made a motion that the board change the policy to allow students who have completed all requirements except passing the EOC to march with their class. He said, “They would walk with their class and only get an empty diploma folder. They would not graduate, just participate in the ceremony.”
After a bit of discussion, the consensus was that the board policy would be amended at the meeting to allow the students who have not passed the EOC but completed all other requirements to walk this year. It was decided that the staff would work up a proper policy update that will be correct for the future and that that new policy statement would be adopted by the board at the June 10thmeeting.
Miller revised his motion to contain correct wording to change the policy immediately. Ms. Cox seconded it. The motion carried on a voice vote with only board member Gary Giddens casting a “nay” vote.