The Freeman School District will search for ways to improve student detention.
That was one concrete result of a stormy school board meeting Tuesday that attracted about 100 parents and teachers.
Discussion ranged over a variety of questions and complaints - everything from why parents aren’t notified if their child will be late coming home from school due to detention, to what happens to students’ belongings confiscated at school, to why early morning visits to the Freeman Store result in students being listed as truant or tardy.
Lorrie Donnelly, who has two children at the high school and one at the elementary school, and a handful of other parents had prepared 39 written questions about student and staff discipline.
As school board members listened, Superintendent Harry Amend discussed each question with parents and staff members. He promised to revisit issues that weren’t fully resolved.
Several questions focused on detention.
Concerns included lack of notice to parents, transportation problems and a perception that detention is used too liberally and without explanation.
“If there’s a feeling as a community that there should be a written trail for detention, that’s the kind of input the board would like to have,” Amend said.
One mother said she worried when one of her children was late coming home from school because of detention - especially after a cougar was seen twice near her family’s rural home. “I have an 11-year-old who walks our driveway by herself,” she said. “I have a right to be worried.”
“It is a big deal when these kids don’t know why they’re getting detention,” said Donnelly. “It’s happening, guys. Talk to your children.”
High school principal Dennis Schuerman said that any teacher or bus driver who refers a student for detention writes an explanation that is read to the student.
Amend said he would set up a committee to explore changes in detention, open to anyone who wants to participate.
Other questions included these:
Why are parents called from the school to see if a child is really home sick, after the parent has already called in to report the absence?
“It’s a tough one,” Amend admitted. “It is offensive” to check up after a parent has called. Yet, Amend said he stood by the policy, referring to a tragedy several years ago in which a Central Valley High School student who was skipping school was killed in an accident. Someone had called in, falsely reporting that student was home sick.
If a high school student leaves the school grounds before school has actually started, why is that considered a truancy or unexcused tardy if the student is not late for school?
Often students walk to the nearby Freeman Store for something to eat or drink, after they’ve been dropped off at school in the morning.
Amend suggested that parents simply drop off their children at the store, instead.
The district has a closed campus policy. That means once a student arrives on school grounds at the beginning of the day, they must remain on campus.
Although some parents and students spoke in criticism of the district, a few had only praise for the district’s tough stands.
“I think it’s foolish to make the rules easier for our children,” said Gary Wagner, who said he and his family came to Freeman to take advantage of the district’s firm discipline.
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