On Feb. 25, the Modesto City Schools Board of Education unanimously approved a revision to our citizenship policy that will increase the number of students who can participate in activities.
Under our past policy, students with two unsatisfactory citizenship marks were ineligible to participate in athletics, cheerleading and leadership classes. The new one-year pilot program allows approximately 7 percent of students excluded under the old policy to participate in these activities.
The policy still prohibits academically ineligible students and students who have violated the Conduct Code from participating in all activities. Students with unsatisfactory citizenship marks are ineligible to participate in dances, school assemblies, field trips, after-school recreation and graduation exercises.
At Modesto City Schools, we believe there are no throwaway children. The board changed its policy to bring more students into the fold, instead of casting them out.
In "The Coming Jobs War," Gallup Chairman Jim Clifton wrote that the number one reason that students drop out of school is that they lose hope, and that students succeed when they have the active involvement of an adult who believes in them.
Students respond to positive role models and mentors. Teachers, advisers and coaches teach life lessons that go beyond the classroom. These caring adults provide the hope our students need.
Activities are inherently educational and support our mission by providing students with experiences that foster life skills. Research shows that students who participate in activities tend to have higher grades, better attendance, lower dropout rates and fewer discipline problems. Through these activities, students build confidence and skills that develop them into responsible adults and productive citizens.
Students who do not participate in extracurricular activities are 49 percent more likely to use drugs and 37 percent more likely to become teen parents.
Modesto City Schools teaches character development and has several programs that assist students in developing positive behavior, including Restorative Justice, Positive Behavior Intervention, PeaceBuilders and Pursuing Victory with Honor. The common theme for all of these programs is developing the whole student, giving students tools to right their wrongs and making good decisions.
A 2006 research project published by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement found that high school students who participate in sports and activities are more likely to become young adults who volunteer in their community, register to vote and do vote, and feel comfortable speaking in public. These are the future citizens that we hope to develop at Modesto City Schools.
Recent California legislation requires a school district to use corrective means other than suspensions for first-time Conduct Code violations. These include counseling, referrals to support services, and student participation in pro-social behavior and anger management programs. Consistent with this legislation and with the prevailing research on the issue, we believe that at-risk students will benefit from continued participation in the positive character-building experiences we offer through school activities.
A committee met during the fall semester to consider the impact of the existing citizenship policy and recommended the new policy. Students will continue to receive citizenship marks, recorded on all report cards. Parents will still know when their children are at risk. Activity leaders still have discretion to implement sanctions and promote responsible behavior and good citizenship, while keeping students involved in the school community.
During the coming year, the committee will continue to review this policy and make regular reports to the board and the community.
Modesto City Schools invites the community to collaborate with us to ensure that we keep standards high for Modesto's young citizens. We encourage the public to attend our board meetings and participate in the committee that is reviewing this pilot program. We commit to continue holding our students accountable for their behavior while providing the hope that is vital for their future.
Cline is current president of the Modesto school board. Able is the superintendent, and Coats is director of educational services for grades 7 through 12.