COTTONWOOD – As far as Mingus Union High School is concerned, the school’s identification badges are no longer an issue.
That’s what the school’s principal and acting superintendent said in a commentary the Verde Independent published in its Jan. 9 edition.
“It wasn’t resolved because our attorneys directed us to make any changes, and it wasn’t resolved because the [American Civil Liberties Union] demanded it,” Genie Gee wrote in her commentary. “We chose to resolve this situation because we need the focus of our school to be on learning and the well-being of each and every student. The assertion by the ACLU that we don’t care about our students is heartbreaking and couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Since the Mingus Union school year began in August, students have been required to wear either a red or a gray badge on campus that tells administration who is allowed to leave campus for lunch.
In a Dec. 28 letter to Gee, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona demanded that the school “cease the practice of forcing students … to wear distinct badges that divulge their educational achievement level to students, teachers, school administrators and the public.”
Speaking on behalf of a Mingus Union student and her mother, the letter stated that the student “by wearing the scarlet badge … receives less individual instruction from teaches because they assume she is not interested, motivated or capable of learning.”
“This all causes [the student] to experience increased anxiety at school, feel ostracized from other students and feel stigmatized by teachers and administrators,” the letter stated. “[She] and other students deserve to attend school without being branded by administrators and bullied by fellow classmates.”
As of Wednesday, every Mingus Union student “will wear a red ID on their lanyard for identification purposes,” Gee said.
To leave campus for lunch, Gee said that eligible juniors and seniors “will receive a separate off campus lunch pass/card they will show when leaving campus.”
“The off campus cards will be mailed home and students will need to show these new cards beginning Monday, Jan. 14,” Gee said.
Gee took over as acting superintendent in November when former superintendent Penny Hargrove resigned while on administrative leave.
In her first year as both principal and acting superintendent, Gee said Monday that during the winter break she reached out to district consultant Gail Malay “for wisdom from an expert.”
“We are very similar in our beliefs about students and school culture,” Gee said of Malay. “As acting superintendent, I made a decision that I felt was best for our school based on the vision that our team has in mind. Once the decision was made to adjust our practice, our team pulled together to iron out the details and make it happen.”
A week ago, Gee and Malay “began planning adjustments to the student ID practice” and had the plan “completely in place by Friday morning.”
Gee said communication was “provided to families Tuesday evening via robocall and email, and students will receive updates in their advisory classes on Wednesday morning.”
Gee also said that updates will be available by Wednesday morning at the district’s website, https://www.mingusunion.com.
-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42
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