BOE mulls change to suspensions

COVINGTON - Some members of the Newton County Board of Education are considering a change to the Newton County School System's suspension policy that could allow suspended students to receive full credit for their work.

In December, school board Chairman Almond Turner suggested that system officials and board members revisit the policy that currently only allows students to receive up to a grade of a 70 for work completed during their suspension.

"We're striving to make sure they do their best," Turner said in December. "They shouldn't be penalized academically."

At Tuesday's work session, NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley brought to the board a revised policy that would allow suspended students to receive full credit for their work as long as they complete it during the time period in which they are suspended.

"For a number of years, we've grappled over this (policy)," Whatley said Tuesday.

He said at one time, suspended students automatically received a grade of zero on their work during the time they were suspended, and then later the policy was changed to give them no higher than a grade of a 70.

"This has been a concern reviewed by principals and discussed and rehashed over and over," Whatley said.

Turner said he has always been concerned about this rule and hopes it will one day change.

"The punishment is the suspension, and that should be the end of it," he said. "You've got students who are going to take the low road (but) there are some who just make a mistake."

Board member Eddie Johnson suggested the policy even to go a step further.

"I think we should give them an extra 10 points for doing the work" away from school, he said during the work session. "(The policy) deviates from the commitment that we want to educate our kids. ... To me, you're cheating the kid out of his performance."

School board member Johnny Smith said he is concerned that by allowing suspended students to receive full credit - or more - will send a bad message to students who sit in class everyday, behave and do their work.

Board member C.C. Bates said she sees both sides and at least is supportive of the fact that students who have been suspended cannot serve as an Honor Graduate.

Smith said he wishes to table the vote, which is scheduled for Tuesday's regular session meeting, because he feels the board needs more time to discuss it among themselves and with administrators.

"I'm grappling with it myself," said board member Cathy Dobbs. "I want to think about it."

Even if the board doesn't approve the policy right away, Turner said he is glad he requested a change, even if it only gets the discussion started again.

"I think this is helping," he said.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.