ID policy for students modified

FAIRMONT – Fairmont Area’s school board discussed policy changes Tuesday, agreeing to make student ID rules more user-friendly.

Students are required to wear a picture ID at all times on a lanyard or a clip. The rule has been in effect since the beginning of the 2011 school year.

In addition to identifying students, IDs function as library cards, lunch tickets and entry badges for sporting events. Students are issued two badges at the beginning of the year. Each additional ID comes with a $5 fee.

School board members have interviewed teachers and students, and have found the high rate of ID loss and the process of replacing them during classroom time to be disruptive.

The solution discussed by the board will require students to produce IDs upon request, rather than visibly wear them.

“The vast majority [of teachers] said the time it took to get new ones, and check on them, took away from instructional time,” said school board member Nicole Green. “The main purpose of our school is to educate our students. If ID badges are taking away from instructional time, [students] should not be required to wear them.”

If a student cannot produce an ID when asked, he or she will be unable to use the hallways during instructional time and must report to the office directly after class to obtain a replacement.

The board considered increasing the $5 replacement fee, but decided against it, as there are currently more than 600 unpaid fines.

No board member suggested changing the requirement that students must have IDs, instead suggesting that carrying them is part of the educational process.

“We are helping our children to live in the real world,” said board member Sandy Beckendorf. “They need to learn to be responsible for their things.”

“I tell you what,” said board member Diane Gerhardt. “They don’t forget their cell phones.”

The board also discussed the attendance policy, changing the number of days of allowed absences per semester from 12 to 10.

Gerhardt said that currently a student can miss 12 days of school per semester before being referred to an appeals process. She felt the number to be excessive.

“We have a problem with attendance,” she said. “In the first semester of last year, 77 students missed more than 13 days of school. In the second semester, 63 students missed that many.”

If a student misses 15 straight days, state law requires the district to drop him or her from its register, thereby losing funding for that student.

Gerhardt said it wasn’t fair for teachers or classmates of absent students to be allowed so many absences.

“Being successful means coming and being part of school,” she said.

Superintendent Joe Brown said there is a correlation between absences and school success.

“Our top 25 students in ninth through 12th grade had the fewest number of absences,” he said. “The bottom 25 had the most number of absences.”

The changes to the policy will be added to the student handbook. It will come before the board for approval later in the year, and take effect next school year.