A Pasco mother is not taking “no” for an answer after the school board told her that her son can’t walk across the stage with his graduating class.
Juan Rodriguez Jr. was told last month that he would not be able to walk with his Delta High School class because he failed the state biology exam, and the Pasco School Board upheld the decision Thursday after an appeal, said his mother, Lucelia Rodriguez.
He met all the other requirements to graduate, but won’t know if he passed a retake of the biology exam until August, she said.
“These board members have no idea what they are doing to him physiologically, they have not even thought about it,” she said. “They are shattering his dreams. They are stripping away this childhood memory from him.”
The board carefully reviewed its May decision, but decided not to change its procedures, board President Ryan Brault told her in a letter.
“We are proud of all that Juan has accomplished, and we recognize that he has worked very hard to get to this point,” Brault wrote. “It is very unfortunate that this final biology graduation requirement was not fulfilled before the ceremony this Saturday, and we sincerely hope that he continues his efforts to meet this requirement.”
Delta High, which has a science, technology, engineering and mathematics-based curriculum, is a joint project of the Kennewick, Pasco and Richland school districts. It has its own graduation ceremony, though students get diplomas from the schools in their home district — Pasco High in Juan Rodriguez’s case.
The Kennewick School District has a similar rule disallowing students who haven’t passed the biology exam to walk at the ceremony, but Richland allows them to take part, Lucelia Rodriguez said.
“The school is a collaboration between the three districts,” she said. “Why wouldn’t he be allowed to walk?”
As many as 7,600 Washington high school seniors were unable to graduate this year because they didn’t pass the biology end-of-course assessment, according to The News Tribune newspaper. That is about 10 percent of the class of 2015.
The state House passed a bill that would have removed the biology exam from state graduation requirements during its first special session, but it was not taken up in the Senate before the session ended.
Lucelia Rodriguez contacted state legislators asking for help. Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, was hopeful that the problem would be resolved.
“As a new legislator, I look forward to finding more common-sense solutions like this one so that we can better our schools and work with our teachers and our students,” Dye wrote back.