Parent backs principal after graduation penalty overruled

WASHINGTON — A parent of students at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School says she’s urging continued support for Principal Donna Redmond Jones after her decision to bar six students from graduation ceremonies for showing up to prom drunk was overruled.

Jeanne Rossomme, who is the parent of a senior and sophomore at BCC, said Jones was right to ban the students from commencement.

“All of the students were extremely clear on the policy and the consequences. There was no ambiguity at all,” Rossomme said referring to Jones’ warnings that if students violated school policy on alcohol at the May 6 prom they could be barred from attending graduation.

That’s one reason Rossomme says she’s so puzzled — and frustrated— by Montgomery County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers’ decision to reverse Jones’ decision and allow the students to participate in graduation.

“This was communicated clearly a long time ago. So if you had a problem with the policy, you had the opportunity to discuss it and voice your concern.”

Bowers sent a letter home to parents late Friday — just before the long Memorial Day weekend — explaining why he was overruling Jones’ decision.

In this case, Bowers said his decision was “based on the individual circumstances of these cases.” But he added, “The Board of Education policy is clear that, as a matter of general practice, the exclusion from commencement ceremonies may not be included in local school policies regarding disciplinary standards and procedures.”

Yet in the next sentence, the letter states: “However, principals retain the authority to exclude students from participation in commencement ceremonies for cause, on a case-by-case basis.”

Speaking to WTOP on Memorial Day, Rossomme said at this point, it’s unlikely that MCPS will change its position.

“But I think the silver lining to this is that it’s sparked a big conversation,” on the issues surrounding alcohol use by students especially as the June 1 graduation approaches, she said.

“I think all of us want to celebrate the graduation of our kids and their accomplishments and not get bogged down in a political debate.”

But Rossomme said she has an eye toward the future.

“I have a sophomore, I have another child going through the high school, and we want to continue these efforts” to address teen drinking and safety.

WTOP reached out to MCPS for comment. Derek Turner, public information officer for the school system, declined a request for a taped interview for broadcast. But he texted a message to WTOP that Montgomery County has a policy “against zero tolerance discipline.” Regarding Bowers’ decision the text message said, “We don’t have anything further to add beyond the letter.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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