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HOME-SCHOOLED BOY IS AT ISSUE IN DEBATE OVER ATTENDING DANCE

The request for a home-schooled boy to attend a Holland Middle School dance fueled a lively debate by the School Board on Wednesday.

Key among the issues is whether the district can be inclusive to resident nonstudents while still being fair to its own student body. In the end, the board approved the measure.

"Home school is a parent's choice," board member Michael Liddle said. "We should reach out and embrace these kids and not put up barriers."

Board member Neil Winch noted the potential for disparity. He said that Holland school students who are tardy or absent cannot attend after-school functions. Home-schooled students would not have the same regulations placed upon them, he said.

School Superintendent Garry Stone said that there are several reasons to approve the parent's request. "In this time of tight funding, these are the community members who are voting on our budget," he said. "These are also the kids that might come back. We should make them feel comfortable so if they wanted to come back, they wouldn't feel like an outsider."

The Holland School District does issue guest passes to its dances for alumni and students from other schools, teacher Patricia Zurbrick said. She added that the passes specifically state that the Holland student purchasing the ticket is responsible for the guest. She suggested that in the case of a home-schooled child, the parent should sign the guest pass waiver.

The board was nearing approval of the request when Liddle suggested that home-schooled students be allowed to attend all after-school functions except interscholastic sports, which is prohibited by state law.

"This is a very cumbersome issue. If we say carte blanche that every home-schooled child is invited to every extracurricular activity, we might get ourselves in trouble," board President Joseph Kujda said.

The board approved the request for the home-schooled boy to attend the dance and agreed to review future requests on a case-by-case basis. Stone said he would inform the boy's parents of the board's decision and send them a copy of the Holland student handbook.

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