Ballou High students defend principal, question policies amid scandal

WASHINGTON — Students testified at D.C.’s city hall following a scathing report that found more than half of Ballou High School’s graduating class missed more than three months of school and did not earn their diplomas.

It’s not that simple, the students argued on Friday.

Ballou High School junior Jayla Ings offered insight to the D.C. Council’s Education Committee on the attendance policy she said incentivizes students to miss school.

“If I knew that after missing just one class I would be counted absent for the day as far as DCPS is concerned, what would be the point of even coming to school or even trying?” Ings asked rhetorically.

The committee heard hours of testimony from students, educators, parents and volunteers from the high school, and the majority of them take issue with the WAMU report that city leaders have moved to investigate.

Gabriel Clark, a junior, said after missing two weeks of classes because he dislocated his knee, he was unable to account for the time because he didn’t go to the doctor and thus didn’t have a doctor’s note.

“You do have students who have illnesses who don’t go to the hospital or the doctor, so you can’t get notes from the doctor … I think we should have a chance to bring written notes,” Clark said.

Mother Dominique Foster said she finds the D.C. schools policy requiring a student be present for 80 percent of the day is too rigid, given many students’ family obligations and barriers in getting to school on time.

“I do believe that something else should be put into place. If you’re absent for the first period, you’re absent for the whole day,” Foster said, speaking specifically about dropping her daughter off after a dental appointment without a note, which resulted in an absence in her file.

Nearly every person who testified asked for former principal Yetunde Reeves be reinstated after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she was reassigned to the main office on administrative duties as an independent agency investigates the allegations of teachers changing grades and attendance rates citywide.

The D.C. state board of education will take up the issue at its monthly public meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 20 at 5:30 p.m. in the Old Council Chambers on 4th Street Northwest.

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