Schools to clarify diploma policy

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 30, 2005

Suffolk Public Schools will be reevaluating its unspoken policy of withholding the diplomas of students who still owe fees to the school system, said a school division official.

The school system has historically held onto the diplomas and transcripts of graduates who still owe money for lost text books and the like, said Bethanne Bradshaw, spokeswoman for the school division. The system releases the documents once the fees have been paid.

But the policy-which is employed by several other Hampton Roads school system-goes against a state law that prohibits withholding a diploma for nonpayment of charges, said Charles B. Pyle , spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education.

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School principals will be looking at the school’s handling of such situations this summer, Bradshaw said.

&uot;We need to clarify our policy. We understand the law,&uot; said Bradshaw.

&uot;The students have earned their diplomas…and we aren’t trying to keep their diplomas.&uot;

But the school system’s action is designed to teach the students accountability and responsibility, she said.

Although it may not seem like a significant amount of money, it adds up, Bradshaw said. For example, American government text books, which are given to seniors to use for the year at no cost, cost $75 to replace.

As of late last week, all but 13 of the 27 graduates who didn’t receive diplomas at graduation had paid their fees and picked up the documents, Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw believes the school system is able to withhold transcripts for college and workplaces.