Breckenridge Texan

Petition seeks to allow foreign exchange students to participate in BHS graduation; local policy prohibits it, administrators say

Petition seeks to allow foreign exchange students to participate in BHS graduation; local policy prohibits it, administrators say
March 03
19:32 2022

By Carla McKeown and Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

More than 1,300 people have signed an online petition requesting that two foreign exchange students be allowed to participate in the Breckenridge High School graduation ceremony in May.

The petition has been shared several times on local Facebook pages, and commenters praised the BHS senior who started the petition for standing up for her fellow students.

However, according to Breckenridge Independent School District Superintendent Bryan Allen, BISD policy does not allow anyone to participate in the commencement activities and ceremonies if they have not met all of the State of Texas requirements for graduation. Although he could not speak about any specific students, he said that in most cases, foreign exchange students do not meet all of those requirements.

The policy on this topic states that “A student who has satisfactorily completed all coursework requirements for graduation but has failed to meet applicable state testing requirements shall be allowed to participate in commencement activities and ceremonies.”  The policy was revised last summer to allow those students who have not passed the state tests to graduate. Before the change, only students who met the coursework requirements and had passed the required tests could participate in the ceremony.

Allen said he wasn’t sure when the previous policy was put in place.

“In previous years exchange students have been able to participate in the graduation ceremony,” the petition on Change.org states. “Fellow students and some teachers have expressed their opinion that the exchange students should be allowed to walk with their fellow classmates. We want to welcome them to our country and give them the full American experience that they deserve.”

Allen said that in the two years he’s been in Breckenridge, he does not know of any foreign exchange students who participated in the graduation. Additionally, Allen said that although he’s not sure about how similar situations have been handled in the past, he has talked to long-time BHS employees who say they also cannot remember foreign exchange students taking part in the ceremonies. However, some local residents commenting on the petition site and on Facebook have said that they remember foreign exchange students graduating with them in the 1990s.

Additionally, the petition says that the students are being denied the opportunity to participate because they are receiving a “certificate of completion” rather than a diploma. However, Allen said, foreign exchange students receive a “certificate of attendance” at the end of their time at Breckenridge High School. They do not receive a “certificate of completion” or a diploma, which would allow them to take part in the ceremony by local and Texas Education Agency policy.

Allen said that this situation isn’t common because many foreign exchange students are juniors, rather than seniors, and graduation isn’t a factor.

According to the Texas Administrative Code, Texas high school students need 22 credits to graduate, including four credits in English language arts; three math credits; three science credits; one fine arts credit; one physical education credit; two language other that English credits; and three social studies credits, including United States History and United States Government. It’s the history and government requirements that would be lacking from most foreign exchange students’ transcripts, Allen said.

Any changes to the local policy or exemptions or waivers will have to come from the BISD Board of Trustees, he said.

“I’m hired to follow board policy,” he said. “And so if the school board wanted to make an exception or change the policy or whatnot, that would be a decision that they would have to make. But all our administrators, we’re hired and given the directive that ‘You will follow board policy.’ And if we come across something that we think needs to change, hey, then we may suggest that to the board and give them our reasons why it might need to change. But we’re not just going to say, ‘Yeah, I know what’s written down there, but we’re not going to follow that.'”

The best way for citizens, including students, to voice their concerns, complaints or requests to change the policy is to follow the school district’s three-level grievance plan, Allen said. In this case, Level One is BHS Principal Christopher Hancock; Level Two is Allen; and, Level Three is the school board. Allen said neither he nor Hancock are going to make a decision against board policy, so this situation would go straight to the board, if anyone makes a formal complaint through the grievance procedures.

Citizens may speak at a school board meetings and bring up complaints. However, the board may not discuss or take action on topics that are not officially listed on the agenda. To get an item on the agenda of a board meeting, a citizen could ask a board member to request that it be added as a discussion or action item.

The next regular BISD school board meeting is scheduled for March 21.

 

 


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