Tifton Gazette

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May 22, 2014

Our Opinion: To graduate or not to graduate – a sticky question

TIFTON —

It’s that time of year again. School is ending, summer is kicking off, and graduations are looming large. For us, it also means phone calls, letters and e-mails from angry parents or friends concerning whether a student is going to get to participate in the upcoming graduation ceremony. 

First of all, let us just say that it is clear that every student is made aware, as are the parents, at the beginning of their high school careers what is expected of them. They know what they have to do and they know what they have to earn. If this isn’t accomplished, school officials will be in contact with the parents or guardians of any given student. 

School officials want students to graduate – it kind of looks bad for them if they don’t. So why, as it has been implied, would school officials and/or teachers do anything to keep a student from graduating? 

We heard from some angry students and friends of students this week who claimed that a student who wasn’t supposed to walk during Saturday’s graduation ceremony will now be allowed to. We contacted the school board, knowing that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA, also referred to as the Buckley Amendment) would prevent us from getting any specific information. The act is a federal law designed to protect the privacy of student education records, and establish the right of students to inspect and review their education records. We respect and abide by that law, even when it’s frustrating for us.

What we were told is this: there are different ways students can meet the requirements for graduation, and the general requirements are based on class credits, testing and attendance. 

This goes hand in hand with the information the Georgia Department of Education provided. According to DOE, a student can request a waiver or variance, if he or she has not managed to pass the graduation exam. The application has to be submitted by the student and a parent/guardian (or by the student if he/she is 18). There are several things listed that could qualify a student for such a waiver, including when a student has enrolled, attended and successfully complete coursework, but has been unsuccessful during testing attempts due to a hardship such as chronic or severe illness, economic deprivation, homelessness or death of a family member or legal guardian. The application for a waiver has to be submitted to the local superintendent, and would be approved by the DOE. 

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