Principal looks into legality of publishing honor roll

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 25, 2003

Last week, Austin High School Principal Joe Brown said three phone calls about the new honor roll policy would make it an issue.

By the end of Friday afternoon Brown had gotten four calls about the decision to no longer publish the AHS honor roll list in the paper.

But not all of them were negative or from people living in the school district, he said.

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One parent said the honor roll should be published.

A Hayfield resident called to complain about the decision.

"He thought we were playing favorites with the kids in trouble," Brown said.

Someone left a message for Brown about it, but he has not been able to contact that person.

Another parent told him that it was the best decision he has made this year, Brown said. The parent has three children, each with different academic abilities.

"That's what's interesting about this," Brown said.

Brown said he thinks releasing grade information violates the Data Practices Act. He also said, the honor roll isn't a complete list of students who get high grade point averages. Those who have discipline problems or break laws cannot be on the list, nor can those who attend AHS part-time, such as post-secondary students.

Those on the honor roll represent about 75 percent of the people earning A and B averages, he said.

"There's a list of items to be considered," he said.

But first Brown wants to find out if it's legal to publish grade information. The school is required to release certain information about students to the public, unless the parents request them not to, Brown said. Grade points averages are not part of that information, he said.

Brown has requested legal information from the Minnesota School Board Association and expects to have an answer by Monday or Tuesday.

If it is legal to publish honor roll information, Brown said he would like to discuss the issue with parents, teachers and students to decide if publishing it is appropriate.

He said if parents want to submit press releases to the newspaper about their student's academic achievements, that's fine, but he said he does not feel comfortable releasing that information himself.

He also said he will meet with department heads about changing the honor roll policy. He said he thinks only grade point averages should decide who makes the honor roll. He said National Honor Society recognizes students who have a good grade point average and are good citizens.

"Maybe I'm a bit too protective, I don't know," Brown said.

If the honor roll policy is changed, it would also be added to the school handbook, he said. The handbook is approved by the school board in April or May, Brown said. Currently the honor roll guidelines are not in the handbook, nor does the school board have a honor roll policy, he said.

AHS also recognizes those who earn high distinction and distinction at graduation, which is based on grade point average. Those students wear honor cords and the high distinction students are asked to speak during the ceremony, Brown said. The graduation ceremony program lists who earn high distinction and distinction.

Students who have discipline or criminal records are not recognized for those honors even if their GPA qualifies.

But to Brown's knowledge, the list is not published in the newspapers.

He said the honor roll list usually is not released until two weeks after report cards go out, so he and school officials have some time to decide whether it will be published.

Honor roll students will be sent certificates of achievement around Feb. 14 to their homes. While the honor roll was announced every quarter, the certificates only will be given out at semester time, when grades are final, Brown said.

Brown said he will write about the new policy in the school newsletter, which goes out with report cards. In that article, he will ask parents for their opinion about it.

"I'm still open to input on this," Brown said.

Cari Quam can be reached at 434-2235 or by e-mail at