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Graduation ceremony for at-risk teens?

2015

Hello,

I work with adolescent males in a level 12 residential care facility and I have 6 who are getting ready to graduate from high school 2 of which did not attend the high school but instead attended a community school. An awesome life event for any youth but especially for these at-risk teens who are also on probation. The high school principal is willing to allow these 2 youths to walk for their diploma in the graduation ceremony but only if their probation officer attends the ceremony, sits in cap and gown, and then leaves with them immediately following the ceremony.

Last year, we were able to accommodate this as one of the probation officers thought it important enough and made a point of attending. This year has proved to be a little more challenging in finding a probation officer to attend. So as an alternative, I offered to have case managers and/or myself attend in place of the probation officer. I am a 17 year veteran and also the Program Coordinator. I feel that my team and I are more than capable of attending this, being that our program is a 12-18 month program, and we know these boys very well.

I've tried to reason with the school administrators and offered different options, all to no avail.

Does anyone have any ideas or know of anything I can do. I really would like for these boys to experience the ceremony and receive their diplomas on stage.

Thank you,

Ronnie Elenez
...

Does your jurisdiction have an ombudsman or an advocate at a higher level in the district you can appeal to?

Sounds to me you have to take your request higher up the ladder. Who does the administration answer to?

What are the concerns of the school admin requiring a PO to be present? Risk to other kids?

Are the kids part of a protected class that you can claim are being discriminated against?

Are there fellow students who support these kids and would want to petition for their inclusion?

Sounds to me like your admin is playing politics. What other options are available to you to make your case for social justice and discrimination of a class of youth based on past mistakes but who have reformed themselves?

Good luck. Remember power never gives up power without a demand.

Peter Delong
...

I am so glad to hear that these at risk teens have graduated high school and will receive their diplomas. I feel it is extremely important for these teens to attend the ceremony if society wants to eventually integrate these individuals back into the community. Have you tried call your school trustee or offer to have a private security guard attend in place of the probation officer. If the school principal will not agree then go to your MP for help on their rights in the community. Hope this helps!

Colleen Sparks

Start a petition.....on line. I will sign. It seems like logic does not work. Move to social action...unless you know and have anyone who is connected politically.

Rick Kelly

If there isn’t a probation officer available perhaps the local police department that the probation officers work under would be cooperative and they would volunteer a plain clothes officer or an auxiliary officer and you could also attend with them? It would be a huge disservice to these youth to not attend .

Danielle Jimeno

Ronnie - keep up your advocacy for these youth! And congratulations to the probation officer who attended last year.

The young person has a right to a free public and appropriate education. Attending high school graduation is a recognized educational activity.

Some schools seem to get stuck in reactive exclusionary practices and this is likely an overspill of that. We are in the work of relational care and of course should model that approach across systems. There is also time to pressure and push on parts of those systems.

I suggest firmly, yet kindly asking the principal one or more questions such as these. Don’t accept their opinion or bias. This, of course, is based on the education code and systems here in California.

1. On what basis is the school excluding this student from a recognized educational activity based on probationary status?

2. If they still won’t give a reasonable response: Where in the education code (or individual education plan) does it require students involved in probation have their probation officer attend educational activities?

3. Also: Will you please show me where to find the written school policy which explains the criteria by which students are excluded from educational activities?

4. If the school has specific safety concerns: What are the specific school-related safety concerns and what reasonable criteria will you accept as migrating those specific safety concerns? (Offering your and your staff’s presence seems very reasonable.)

5. If still no response: Let them know that it will be much easier on their part to allow the student to participate rather than deal with the complaint of non-compliance that will be issued based on the education code and the remedies that they will be required to provide. This student’s legal advocate will be contacting the district.

Some further background:

“In Sands v. Morongo Unified School District, 53 Cal. 3d 863, 873-874 (1991), cert. denied, 505 U.S. 1218 (1992), the California Supreme Court found that the high school graduation ceremony is “an integral part of the educational process” because it recognizes cumulative academic achievement. Therefore, the graduation ceremony is an ‘educational activity,’ pursuant to EC Section 49010(a), as to which a pupil fee cannot be charged.” Retrieved from http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/lr/fm/documents/fma1202addendum.pdf

“‘Educational activity’ means an activity offered by a school, school district, charter school, or county office of education that constitutes an integral fundamental part of elementary and secondary education, including, but not limited to, curricular and extracurricular activities.” Retrieved from http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=49001-50000&file=49010-49013

Good luck and let us all know the outcome!

James Freeman


Hi Ronnie,

My name is Corrie, I am a student at the University of the Fraser Valley. Although I don't feel I can give you any suggestions on how to convince the administration to allow them to participate in the graduation, I do believe that it would be beneficial to the boys you work with. I feel it could truly help them gain self-confidence and see that it can make a difference in their lives having an education. I also believe that in trying to get these boys to participate you help them to feel more a part of the society and not set apart by any behavior or actions. I know how important the graduation ceremony is - helping you feel like you have really accomplished something and could be a stepping stone to greater things.
Would it be possible to get testimonies from previous students of the program on how participating in the graduation was of benefit to them?

All the best,
Corrie Rooker

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