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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — All it takes is one senior wearing a Spiderman costume or attaching blinking lights to a graduation cap with a message of “Now What?” inscribed in glitter on the back of the graduation gown — and the decorum of the graduation ceremony is ruined.
The Colfax Board of Education reviewed and approved an updated graduation requirements policy at the August 21 meeting that spells out what is acceptable at the graduation ceremony.
The updated policy is not changing any of the credit requirements for graduation, said William C. Yingst Jr., district administrator.
The graduation policy still requires four credits for English; three credits each for mathematics, science and social studies; a half credit for health; 1.5 credits for physical education; and nine credits of electives.
At different locations around the country, students are wearing inappropriate attire at graduation ceremonies, such as a Spiderman costume, Yingst said.
The language added to the graduation policy has been suggested by the school district’s legal counsel, Weld Riley, and by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB), he said.
The school districts owns the graduation ceremony — “It’s our ceremony,” Yingst said.
The policy is not intended to infringe on anyone’s right to free speech, he noted.
“We need to set standards before that night (and this is) ensuring that we keep a traditional graduation ceremony,” Yingst said.
The policy notes that participating in the school district’s graduation ceremony is a privilege and that going through the graduation ceremony is not a requirement to graduate from high school and to receive a diploma.
“District-sponsored high school graduation ceremonies are offered as a privilege for the purpose of recognizing the accomplishments of participating students. It is not necessary for a student to participate in graduation/commencement ceremonies in order to graduate from high school and receive a district high school diploma,” the policy states.
The next section establishes that eligible students who choose to participate in the graduation ceremony are obligated to follow the rules and standards set by the school district.
“Eligible students who choose to attend and participate in a graduation ceremony or in a related district-sponsored activity that is similarly offered as a privilege (e.g., certain non-required senior class activities) must abide by any rules, directives, or standards that the district establishes on topics such as dress, conduct/decorum, participation in rehearsals, etc.,” the policy states.
The next section establishes that the district is the proprietor of the graduation ceremony.
“The School District of Colfax is the sole proprietor of the ‘high school graduation’ ceremony, and any messages that the ceremony communicates to the graduating students, their families, and the community, along with any preparation of the graduation ceremony, to include the prescribed attire,” the policy states (bold and italics included in the policy).
The last section establishes acceptable graduation attire.
“Graduation Attire Expectations: Black cap and gown, school district approved: stole, honor cords, etc. The black cap and gown is viewed as an equalizer for all students regardless of socioeconomic level or status. Students shall not adorn or decorate their graduation cap or gown with any words, symbols or other material intended to communicate a message.” (Bold and and italics included in the policy.)
The Colfax Board of Education unanimously approved the additions to the graduation requirements policy.
Voting in favor were school board members Jaci Ackerlund, Ken Bjork, Andrew De Moe, Jodi Kiekhafer, Kyle Knutson and Ken Neuburg.
School board president Todd Kragness was absent from the meeting.
In other business, the Colfax Board of Education:
• Learned that Colfax High School had 15 students during the 2022-2023 school year who took the Advanced Placement (AP) exam in May in AP Biology and AP Calculus. The state average for students passing an AP exam is 25 percent. Colfax High School had 75 percent of the students pass the exam for college credit. (In other words, 11 of the 15 students passed their AP exams.)
• Learned that 250 students participated in the Colfax Elementary summer school session in June. Summer school classes included creative arts, computers, dance, recreational activities, Kid Strong, softball, golf, and academic support at all grade levels through 8th grade.
• Learned that this was the 10th year of participation in the Summer Saunters program. Students visited five different locations on the Ice Age Trail: McKenzie Creek Segment, Hemlock Creek Segment, Straight Lake Segment, Interstate Park and Western Terminus, and the Chippewa Moraine Segment. Students walked from 24 to 30 miles, depending on the route they selected. All together, 96 students signed up for the program this year.
• Learned that the total number of students transported for summer school in 2022 was 404, with 92 being transported from two to five miles, and 312 being transported over five miles. The report on summer school transportation always lags a year behind, Yingst noted.
• Learned that the total number of students transported for the 2022-2023 school year was 564, with 109 being transported zero to two miles; 141 being transported two to five miles; 160 being transported five to eight miles; 103 being transported eight to 12 miles; 51 being transported over 12 miles.
• Learned that the open enrollment rates for the 2023-2024 school year are $8,618 per student for regular education and $13,470 for each special education student. The receiving district receives two-thirds of the amount, and the home district receives one-third of the amount.
• Learned that the school district has received $235.91 for exempt computer aid.
• Approved adding a student activity account for the incoming freshmen Class of 2027.
• Accepted a donation of $2,000 from Colfax Chevrolet for the student assistance fund.
Following a closed session, the Colfax Board of Education:
• Approved hiring Monica Miranda as the business education teacher beginning in the second semester.
• Approved Emily Krause as the forensics advisor.
• Approved Amanda Kalscheur as the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America advisor (FCCLA).
• Approved Monica Miranda as the Future Business Leaders of America advisor (FBLA) beginning in the second semesters.
• Approved Kailey Strunk as the Science Olympiad advisor.
• Approved Alyssa Saintey as the Middle School Student Council advisor.
• Approved Amanda Kalscheur and Jesselyn Judson as the High School Student Council advisors.
• Approved Nichelle Wollberg Broten as the National Honor Society advisor.
• Approved Tiffany Schaffner as the FFA advisor.
A yearbook advisor has not yet been determined and will be appointed at a later date.