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FIREWORKS : Student punishment program lights up school board

A current pay-as-you-go after-school penalty program became a topic of contention at Tuesday night’s Colleton County School Board meeting.

The program, which was implemented in August of 2008, charges children at Colleton County High School a $5 fee for a one-hour after-school program. The program is an alternative to traditional punishment, such as In-School or Out-Of-School Suspension. It is used at the discretion of school disciplinarians. According to Superintendent Dr. Franklin Foster, the most common infraction for students in the program is tardiness. With daily attendance ranging from three to 12 students, the program has generated more than $29,000 in revenue for the district since its implementation. That money has been used to fund a paid district facilitator who oversees children in the program.

However, the existence of the program was unknown to many of the current school board members. This had at least three of the board members crying foul over their lack of knowledge on the program.

“I was disqusted when I first learned about this,” said school board member William Bowman. Bowman was very vocal Tuesday in his opposition to the program. He even made a motion to refund all students who had ever paid the $5 fee. Bowman said he learned of the program by a student. He then brought it to the board’s attention.

“This is essentially a tax,” he said, “… and we are stewards of the taxpayers money and we didn’t even know about this program!”

His concern was shared by fellow board member Darlene Miller, who said she was also alarmed that she was unaware of such a program. Their concerns caused board Chairman P.A. Pournelle to ask Bowman, “where he had been for the last eight years,” saying the program is in the student’s handbook.

“I was voted into office in November of 2008, and this started in August of 2008 and I did not know about it,” said Bowman. “This is highly upsetting that we are the policy-makers of this district and did not know about this program.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board voted to continue using the program but to remove the $5 fee. The district will now use existing classified staff members to oversee students in the program. This duty will be incorporated into their job description, and will not incur any additional salary expenses, according to Foster.

Heather Walters (693 Posts)