High school seniors should be in classes all day

March 12, 2012

Recent articles and editorials touched on some of the relationship between school hours and suspension rates and teenagers' biological clocks and the benefits of keeping kids in school ("How early is too early for high school students," March 8; "Suspension as a last resort," March 5). But they omitted any discussion of how high school students should be spending their afternoons.

By the end of eleventh grade, the average public school student in Maryland has acquired most of the credits that they will need to graduate. Current state school policy is that high school seniors only need to meet the minimum credit requirements, regardless of their GPA or readiness for college or a job. This policy results in an expectation that underachieving, troubled and problem students will not attend a full day of classes as seniors.

Once they satisfy the minimum morning classes required, at-risk students may be out of school by 10 a.m. with no bus transportation home, no college courses to attend and no job. Meanwhile, public schools remain fully staffed, heated and maintained while their afternoon classes are only half full. Seniors who could benefit from these classes in a safe, structured environment are permitted to leave the school for whereabouts unknown.

Despite parental objections and efforts to keep students in school full-time, state law favors the juveniles and undermines the parents. Nor does there appear to be any effort by the schools to screen or monitor the students that are leaving early.

We are thus ignoring a vital opportunity to better serve students. The option to leave school early should be a privilege available only to those students that have already exceeded the minimum requirements, which should include something more than just the number of credits they have earned.

David Walbeck

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