Cyber student's request to attend Franklin Regional dance prompts policy discussion

| Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 5:30 p.m.

Franklin Regional officials plan to develop a policy to enable students who attend charter schools or who are homeschooled to attend school dances sponsored by district organizations.

Superintendent Jamie Piraino said the district was contacted by a parent of a middle school-aged cyber charter student earlier this month who was interested in attending a Sept. 20 dance that the middle school Parent Teacher Organization sponsored.

“Participation is the rule,” Piraino said. “We want to work with them with open arms to get what type of experience the family is looking for that is typical of a Franklin Regional student.”

It's a murky situation, Piraino acknowledged. Students who attend charter schools – which are funded by tax money but run by private organizations – have legal rights when it comes to school activities.

Legally, Piraino said, school districts are required to allow any student enrolled in a charter school – traditional or cyber – to participate in extracurricular activities. However, a school dance isn't the same as soccer or football, Piraino said.

“The challenge is not knowing who is at your dance,” Piraino said. “Behaviorally, you have no jurisdiction with that child other than saying, ‘You can't come back to the dance again.'”

Piraino said administrators weighed the decision carefully.

“It's a social type of activity,” he said. “Having staff be able to identify and deal with students at a dance is important for us to maintain safety and security.”

The student ultimately was permitted to attend the dance. Piraino didn't know if the student chose to or not. In the future, students who live in the district but attend a charter school will be required to meet with administrators. They also will have to fill out a form verifying he or she is in good academic and behavioral standing at their school.

That's the practice followed at the high school for homecoming and prom. At the middle school, students aren't permitted to bring dates or guests from outside of the district.

Piraino said he expect the board to discuss and vote on a policy in the spring.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627.

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