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Sunday, January 25, 2004 - Page updated at 12:01 A.M.

Underachievers' parents deny honor students

By Matt Gouras
The Associated Press

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The school honor roll, a time-honored system for rewarding "A" students, has become an apparent source of embarrassment for some underachievers.

As a result, all Nashville schools have stopped posting honor rolls, and some are considering a ban on hanging good work in the hallways — at the advice of school lawyers.

After a few parents complained their children might be ridiculed for not making the list, school-system lawyers warned that state privacy laws forbid releasing academic information, good or bad, without permission.

Some schools since have put a stop to academic pep rallies. Others think they may have to cancel spelling bees. And schools across the state may follow Nashville's lead.

The change has upset many parents who want their children recognized for hard work.

"This is as backward as it gets," said Miriam Mimms, who has a son at Meigs Magnet School and helps run the Parent Teacher Association. "There has to be a way to come back from the rigidity."

Most states follow federal student privacy guidelines, which allow the release of such things as honor rolls, Department of Education officials said.

"It's the first time I've heard of schools doing that," said Jim Bradshaw, department spokesman.

But Nashville school lawyers based their decision last month on a state privacy law dating to the 1970s — a law not always followed because no one challenged the honor-roll status quo.

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School officials are developing permission slips to give parents of the district's 69,000 students the option of having their children's work recognized. They hope to receive clearance before the next grading cycle.

Until then, principals will try to figure out what is acceptable.

Sandy Johnson, chief instructional officer for the Nashville schools, says the restrictions go "far beyond the honor role."

"It's for anything having to do with grades and attendance or anything normally reserved just for the student or parent," she said.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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