Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, November 1, 2013
Where students sit in their high school cafeteria is often a sign of their social standing, or their extracurricular activities or even their ethnic heritage. But in one Tennessee high school, seating arrangements are determined a bit differently than that.
Students at La Vergne High School whose grades aren’t considered up to snuff are required to eat lunch together in a separate place from their peers in the hopes that it’ll help motivate them to perform better in the classroom. School leaders told the local news station that the high school has a split lunch period that includes academic intervention for these struggling students.
“They are not segregating them in the traditional sense. If the kids’ scores are low in certain areas, they are getting help in that area. If you want to label that segregation, then that’s not the correct way to label it,” James Evans, a spokesman for the Rutherford County School District, said according to KSEQ.com.
Eleventh grade student Ximena Jinenez also believes the program helps her classmates. ”I don’t think it’s bad, it’s good. We all need it. We need that little help in our lives,” she said.
Not all parents – especially those with special-needs children – are behind the program, however.
“To me, it’s considered separation, because you have your special needs kids and the kids getting the good grades on one side, and the kids getting below an 80 on the other side,” Paul Morecroft, the father of a 10th grade student who has special needs, said. He also believes that the program is a “civil rights violation and segregation.”
La Vergne High School’s program is part of a state pilot program that has been in effect for more than two years, however the school is one of the few in the Volunteer State that uses the split-lunch concept. Others have chosen to work the intervention program into the regular school day, KSEQ.com reports.
Nonetheless, school officials believe the program is working. The graduation rate at La Vergne High School has risen from 77 percent to almost 90 percent since the program was instituted.