Student's reinstatement compromises standards, integrity of top school

(Editor's note: The following column is regarding a John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School student who successfully appealed after pleading guilty in a tribunal hearing to possessing marijuana and a weapon on school grounds. Although she withdrew from school and was sent to another school, she will return to Davidson this coming school year.)

The John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School Parent Teacher Organization has serious concerns regarding the recent decision of the Richmond County Board of Education to reinstate a student found to have committed several violations of Richmond County school board policy. We believe that this reinstatement sets a precedent that threatens the high standards of conduct generally associated with, and so fundamental to, the Davidson Fine Arts experience.

Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School is the crown jewel of schools in both Richmond County and the state of Georgia. Evidence for this claim can be found in Davidson recently being identified as the No. 1 public high school and middle school in the state. Davidson consistently has been recognized as one of the leading magnet schools in the country, and its awards over the years, both academically and in the arts, are too many to list. Davidson has given our community an enormous amount of recognition and pride over the years, and its graduates attend, and excel at, the most prestigious colleges and universities that our nation has to offer.

The privilege of attending such an accomplished school requires accountability. Each Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School student and parent signs the "Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School Contract for Parents and Students" before each school year. This contract clearly delineates the rules required to attend such a prestigious school - and the consequences for failing to do so. The Parent Teacher Organization finds it very disappointing and troubling that this contract - clearly influential in the success of the school - was ignored completely by the Board of Education prior to rendering its reinstatement decision.

Furthermore, it is widely recognized that acceptable conduct is a prerequisite to excellence and a key factor in the learning experience at Davidson. The school board's recent reinstatement ruling circumvents this most basic prerequisite, and works counter to the principles upon which Davidson was founded. The actions of the school board serve to reverse fundamental expectations that have resulted in years of excellence in academics and the arts at Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School.

The continued excellence of Davidson is too important to be jeopardized by such a poor decision. The school board has an obligation to strengthen our educational system. It should never play a role in circumventing or destroying standards that have helped place one of its schools at the peak of educational excellence. We call on the Richmond County Board of Education to correct its mistake by honoring the validity of the parent/student contract and by enforcing its terms.

Walter D. Lampp III

(The writer is president of the John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School Parent Teacher Organization.)