The controversy stems from 8 students who were banned from walking across the stage to receive their diplomas.

The excitement and anticipation of walking across the stage to receive their high school diploma is over for 6 students who appealed and lost their battle to challenge a Morgan County R-II school policy on attendance to take part in commencement ceremonies.

The students can attend and will receive their diplomas but will not don their cap and gown for the traditional walk across the stage. 

The attendance policy that requires seniors to maintain a 90% attendance rate has stirred a controversy within the district. 

Morgan County R-II Superintendent Joyce Ryerson said the policy will likely be back on the Morgan County R-II’s agenda in the near future. The district has heard from both sides of the issue, some who support it and others who disagree withholding participation in graduation.

The controversy stems from 8 students who were banned from walking across the stage to receive their diplomas.

Of those 8 students, several used the appeal process in the policy. Six were turned down. One was granted. 

The attendance policy was adopted by the school district last year. The policy dictates that seniors maintain a 90 percent attendance rate in order to take part. The district has a graduating class of approximately 80 seniors who will graduate this week.

Ryerson said there has been some misinformation. The district does not take the situation of individual students lightly. Over the course of the academic year high school staff monitors the attendance rates, reinforcing the policy and meeting with students. 

“When students enrolled this year during  registration the office staff informed every student and senior of their current attendance and reminded them of the 90% policy to walk at graduation.  When a parent calls to release their child or comes to pick up their student, they are informed if a student is below 90%,” Ryerson said.  “They are reminded to bring back a doctor note to verify the absence.  Starting on the 4th absence each semester, a letter is sent home informing the parents about the absence.  This year the office staff also wrote the student’s overall percentage in red pen if they were below 90%.”

As far as interventions to resolve the attendance issues before becoming a problem,at the beginning of  the school year in class meetings the high school staff talked about the 90% attendance policy in every class meeting (senior, junior, sophomore, freshman).  On the second day of school the entire handbook is covered in the classrooms with the students, Ryerson said.  

The high school principal met with every student individually that is under 90% each month that they had fallen below 90%. 

In early April, the district informed all seniors under 90% that they did not meet the guidelines and that they would have to appeal to the Appeals Committee.  The appeals were scheduled after the principal met with each student wanting to take part in the process.

“While I cannot discuss the detail nor comment on any particular student, I would like to clear up one misconception that has been circulating; several people have voiced concern that military leave, illnesses/doctor’s appointments or medical concerns will keep a student from walking under this policy if they drop below 90%,” Ryerson said. “These situations are why we have an appeal process.  The absences that concern us our those that are unexcused; meaning we have no phone call, doctor note, etc.  In every case this year, it was unverified absences numbering 8 – 20+ over and above those we had verified that have kept students from being able to participate.”

Attendance is a priority for school districts. Not only does some funding depend on attendance but it is also a factor in the performance goals set by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. And attendance is critical to academic performance. 

Versailles 90% percent attendance rate falls within the the standards set by surrounding districts. School of the Osage and Eldon require a 95% attendance rate while Camdenton has a 90% policy in place. What differs from district to district is the consequences of not meeting the attendance requirements. In Eldon, seniors can lose participation in graduation ceremonies if the do not meet the remediation in the district’s policy. In Camdenton, seniors do lose privileges but participation in graduation ceremonies is not listed as a consequence for failing to adhere to the attendance policy.