Yorktown High School seniors who attended a picnic at FDR State Park during school hours were barred from Senior Day activities the next day, angering some parents who gave permission for their children to skip classes.
District officials received an anonymous tip about the picnic gathering on June 6 after a freshman was identified as missing during attendance. When law enforcement and security personnel went to the park, they found 34 students, mostly seniors, and the missing freshman.
District spokesperson Karli Wheeler said none of the students were suspended but were “examined on a case by case basis based on each student’s history.” All of the seniors were prohibited from taking part in Senior Day on June 7.
“The district is not going to condone this type of behavior. It was the seniors who paid a heavier price,” Wheeler said. “Senior Day is a privilege, not a right. We could have chosen more serious consequences. They decided it was more important to do their thing than to do the right thing. It was just a poor choice on the student’s part and the parents who knew about it and gave permission.”
One of the parents who gave permission was Chris Schmitz, a teacher and father of senior Christopher Schmitz. He said the district overreacted to an end of the year outing that seniors had earned.
“A lot of the senior trips were cancelled. They don’t do a lot of fun things. It could see it as more of an issue if it was on school property, but it wasn’t,” Schmitz sad. “They told my son if he were to go to school he would be escorted off the property. It was a shame.”
Even though Schmitz and other parents of seniors called to report their students would be absent on June 6, Wheeler emphasized missing school for a picnic was “an unauthorized absence.”
“We look at this as a teachable moment,” she said. “The students chose to create their own event which was absolutely not sanctioned. Every school district is concerned about the safety of their students and we need to know where they are. This is an important lesson for everyone to be clear about. If something would have happened at FDR Park that would have been the parent’s responsibility.”
“There were parents who were unhappy with the decision, but that’s certainly par for the course,” Wheeler added. “Many of the parents may not have known where their children were. For the parents who chose to let them go to school, they really need to think about what they’re teaching their kids. What were they thinking?”
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