Parents seeking graduation clemency for children turned away

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

VIDALIA &045; Several parents of Ferriday High seniors unsuccessfully petitioned the Concordia School Board to Thursday to let their children march at Thursday’s graduation despite failing the Graduate Exit Exam.

The exam is required for graduation in Louisiana public schools. Students who fail the test during the school year can retest and receive their diplomas in the summer &045; too late to march with their classes.

Parents who attending Tuesday night’s school board meeting said they received word of their children’s GEE scores Monday. By then, cap and gown fees had already been paid and invitations had already been bought.

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Including the cost of a class ring, the cost of outfitting a senior can cost more than $400, one parent told the board.

In addition, LaDonna Bowman, mother of Ferriday senior Jameka Smith, said learning that the students could not march has caused both parents and children trauma.

&uot;We’re committed to seeing (our children) pass the test &045; just let them march with their class,&uot; said LaDonna Bowman, mother of Ferriday senior Jameka Smith.

But in 1991, the school board decided, as part of its pupil progression plan, not to allow students who did not pass the test to graduate.

&uot;Stick to your policy,&uot; Ferriday High Principal Fred Butcher asked the school board.

Butcher noted that students have one chance in 10th grade, three chances in 11th grade and three chances in 12th grade to pass the GEE. In addition, remediation courses are available during and after school.

Butcher said he also sent multiple letters and had multiple conferences with parents of Ferriday High students about their performance on the test, including some parents at Tuesday’s meeting. Some said they did not receive the letters.

According to the board’s attorney, the board could decide &045; with at least six of nine members voting in favor &045; to suspend its policy and institute a new one.

But district officials were divided on the subject.

The Rev. Johnnie Brown, a school board member who made a motion to allow the students to march at graduation, said he knows where the parents are coming from.

&uot;It happened to my daughter. She couldn’t march, Š and I tell you, it’s a hurting thing,&uot; Brown said, shaking his head. &uot;Who’s it going to hurt for them to march? It’s up to the discretion of this board.&uot;

Brown’s motion died for lack of a second.