Sleeves rolled up

Published 7:52 pm Thursday, July 11, 2013

A lot of rising ninth-graders at Suffolk’s public high schools might be getting a little nervous right about now over the school district’s new community service graduation requirement, for which they’ll be the guinea pigs.

After a carefree summer of fun and games, they’ll have to roll up their sleeves upon returning to school and begin clocking up the 50 hours’ community service that in most cases will be required in order for them to receive a diploma.

Requiring kids to help out in the community in such a manner should help make Suffolk a better place to live. It will also teach important lessons to students who otherwise might miss out.


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But, as deputy superintendent Jacqueline Chavis said this week, it could have some teething problems in its first year. A challenge Suffolk Public Schools will face is applying the policy in a fair manner when the superintendent has the right to excuse students in extenuating circumstances.

The district has given some insight into what might constitute an extenuating circumstance — illness, for instance — but pitfalls still abound.

Might a dissatisfied student or parent soon take their case to the School Board or, beyond a resolution to their liking in that venue, court?

Officials say guidance counselors will work with students to ensure the requirement is met, but some students will likely not be dissuaded from doing nothing. Will that cost them their high school diploma and a fair stab at landing a job and supporting themselves?

It is important to teach self-responsibility and the consequences of having none. But not all teenagers have what it takes to put it into practice.

The good news is, a lot of the things many students already do should count toward the target, such as church activities. Unpacking the dishwasher at home probably won’t count, though.

I’m sure many citizens supportive of the policy are looking forward to seeing more high school students helping out in the community. Let’s hope it engenders some friendly competition among students, such as who can clock their required hours the fastest or spread them over the widest array of organizations, activities or causes.