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County school board needs to go
by Jeff Blanck
Mar 17, 2008 | 508 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The State of Nevada was ranked 50th in the nation for graduation rates. An independent study found the state graduation rate to be 54 percent and not the state’s self-calculated rate of 67 percent. Here in Washoe County, the graduation rate was calculated at 75 percent (probably self-calculated).

The Washoe County School District comes out and says that nothing is of greater concern than the graduation rate. But their actions don’t back that up at all. For that matter, their actions show how hypocritical they really are.

At the same time the district is professing a total commitment to keeping kids in school, they are busy suspending students without any due process, resulting in poor grades, poor attendance and an increase in the dropout rate.

The district states in their regulations that the purpose of a suspension is not punishment but to help the student. But the reality is that if you are considered a problem student you get suspended to teach you a lesson about who is in charge and to get you out of school.

I have a recent example from one of six cases I have against the district that started three years ago. A black male student at Hug High School was suspended and removed from school in October for allegedly fighting. He was initially suspended for 10 days then kicked out for the rest of the school year. He never had a hearing, even though numerous student witnesses said he wasn’t involved in the fight. But an overzealous school police officer arrested him and the administration considered him guilty with no right to prove his innocence.

In August of the next school year, he had a juvenile court trial, where he was exonerated on all charges. But he had already been kicked out of his school.

The district’s response: he graduated anyway, so what’s the big deal?

The district has graduation specialists who are supposed to help students who have poor grades or poor attendance. The graduation rates for Native Americans is only 65 percent, 63 percent for blacks and 55 percent for Hispanics. But if you are white, the graduation rate is 81 percent. So you can see who is getting the help they need not to drop out.

My client was never contacted by a graduation specialist or anyone else from the district when he lost two months of school and got poor grades. The fact that he put out the effort not to drop out is a credit to him, not a lame defense for the district. But if missing school is no big deal to the district, then why does the district have a 90-percent attendance rule professing how important class time is? If you miss 10 percent, you fail regardless of what your grades actually are. Just more hypocrisy.

So who is responsible for the lousy job our district is doing? The Board of Trustees. But the board says it is doing a great job. You can’t help but notice all the signs that say “WCSD, a world-class school district.”

“Third-world” would be more like it. Just because something is in print doesn’t make it true. They have adopted numerous policies but they don’t implement them or enforce them. The board wants to take credit but not responsibility.

Five of the board members, Pullman, Porter, Hollinger, Ruggiero and Carne have been on the board for years. With graduation rates the worst in the country and per pupil funding the third worst, we don’t need more of the same. These board members all get “F’s” and should be kicked out of office. We need trustees who can get the job done and do what is best for all our children.

Jeff Blanck is an attorney in private practice in Reno. He can be reached at

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