CSHS seniors celebrating early will miss graduation ceremony

By Linda Bentley | May 20, 2009

Diversion classes reduce suspension but not in time for graduation
CCUSD – On Friday, Sonoran News was copied on a letter by Michael Moorer, Cactus Shadows High School Class of 2006, which he sent to CSHS administration and Cave Creek Unified School District’s district office, stating, “Early this afternoon, several 12th grade students were suspended from CSHS for being under the influence of alcohol (not by any means drunk, but under the miniscule influence of alcohol). Since the suspension has come in the last week of the school year, these kids are being told they will not be able to walk in the graduation ceremony.”

Moorer goes on to say the suspension doesn’t fit the crime and is “denying these good kids a rite of passage that can only be explained by experiencing it for yourself.”

Claiming he knows each of the suspended students, Moorer says they are not bad kids, by any means; “captains of their athletic squads, scholars in the classroom and overall good human beings.”

Under the district’s “Disciplinary Guidelines” for a first-time occurrence of “Possession, use or being under the influence of drugs, alcohol or controlled substances; possession of drug paraphernalia,” the minimum action to be taken is short-term suspension with a report to law enforcement and the maximum action to be taken is expulsion with a report to law enforcement.

According to Superintendent Debbi Burdick, who said she was notified there were suspensions on Friday, “unless there is a recommendation for long-term suspension or expulsion,” she does not receive paperwork with details – details the district is precluded from divulging in any event.

Questioning the suitability of the punishment, Moorer states it will deny the suspended students “a lifetime memory, a rite of passage and a milestone in their overall education,” and asks if it’s in the students’ best interest to make an example of them and if that is how CCUSD “inspires excellence.”

Moorer pleads, “Is there absolutely no other punishment (i.e. Community service, alcohol diversion classes, massive amounts of manual labor for the school, etc.) that these students could receive (based on the discretion of intelligent, and very capable administrators) in order to TEACH them a real life lesson, and allow them to commemorate their 12 years in the K-12 education system, by walking a few hundred feet, while their family members cheer and cry at the emotional accomplishments they have achieved?” Moorer concluded, “There has to be, there must be, and there should be.”

In addition to his letter, Moorer included attachments that recite the governing board’s guiding principle of “Students First … People Always,” and its mission to “Inspire Excellence,” along with the section of the student handbook referencing the board’s policy with regard to short-term suspension procedures.

Seeking some means to allow for more discretion within the policy, Moorer says under Section C12 of the handbook, it states the “suspension shall be for nine days or less,” and states, “The key word is less,” and points out where it states under Step 2, “… authorized district personnel may: Choose other disciplinary action.”

Burdick said, “Students under the influence at school or any school event … get suspended,” adding, “With first-time substance abuse, students get the opportunity to go to diversion classes, which knocks the suspension down to five days,” and that still includes Thursday’s graduation.