As follow-up to an issue reported here last week, the D.C. Council, by a 12 to 1 vote, yesterday passed emergency legislation to allow high school seniors who missed more than 30 days of class, or 6 weeks, to receive a diploma. The bill was approved despite opposition from D.C. Mayor Bowser, interim Deputy Mayor for Education Smith, and the traditional school system management.
The Washington Post’s Perry Stein indicates that because the act is classified as “emergency” it would not be reviewed by Congress. However, if ever there was a time that members on Capitol Hill should provide oversight it is this case. Apparently, our local representatives don’t understand the concept of accountability.
In perfect DCPS fashion, the exact number of students who would be impacted by this move is uncertain. At first the number was 64 but yesterday it went down by 59 percent to 26 pupils. The purported reason for the steep decline is that many of whom have been chronically absent have also failed to pass their classes academically. Ms. Stein states that “A D.C. schools spokesman said the number of students the legislation will affect is not final.” There are 3,623 seniors in the traditional schools.
Mr. Grosso, who along with Councilmember Robert White sponsored the legislation, asserts that, according to Ms. Stein, “the school system started enforcing long-ignored attendance policies in the middle of the year, amid the graduation imbroglio. They said it is unfair that students have to pay the price for the city’s mistake.”
The Mayor has not made a decision as to whether she will veto the measure. The bright light in all of this is the steadfast dignity of the Deputy Mayor for Education. Ms. Stein quotes Ms. Smith as commenting, “This emergency legislation undermines [the school system’s] efforts and sends a troubling message about the importance of school attendance, suggesting that students need a waiver to excuse absences. We will continue to stress the importance of attendance because every day counts.”
Every day does count and words matter. Mr. Grosso has championed himself as a civil rights leader for equality. With this move, he is sending a powerful signal that some individuals are more equal than others.