School’s policy challenged: Brother wants sister’s homeschooled credits honored

Jordan Pascual, brother of South Hardin High School senior Jaidyn Teske, started an on-line petition to let Jaidyn walk during the commencement ceremony Sunday, but changed the petition to “celebrate” Jaidyn and her graduation. Jaidyn fell short with high school credits due to being a homeschooled student, and will not be able to participate in the ceremony, but will graduate with a homeschooled diploma and attend college this fall. Photos submitted
Elaine Loring
News Editor

ELDORA – What started as a petition from a caring brother, turned into a full-blown conversation about how homeschooling credits may not be enough for a student to walk across the stage during their high school commencement ceremony.

Although graduation is not until this Sunday, the on-line petition, penned by Jordan Pascual, will not be enough for his sister, South Hardin High School and homeschooled senior Jaidyn Teske, to walk across the stage at graduation. Even after the petition received over 3,000 signatures in support. “Larger than Eldora itself,” Pascual said from his California residence. Pascual is also a 2013 South Hardin graduate.

After realizing the petition would not change the school’s rules, Pascual changed the wording to “celebrate” Jaidyn on her graduation as a homeschooled student.

“The last thing I want is controversy for my family and the school system,” he said in the petition. “Sometimes things don’t go our way and we have to do the best with what we have.”

School Superintendent Dr. Adam Zellmer, who recognized that conversations about Jaidyn’s situation were circulating in the community, sent out a press release on Wednesday stating, “The Commencement Policy 505.7 states: Students who have met the requirements for graduation will be allowed to participate in the commencement proceedings providing they abide by the proceedings organized by the school district. Each year we have students who do not meet the graduation requirements for a variety of reasons. While they are not eligible to participate in the commencement ceremony, we do make every effort to recognize seniors in multiple ways throughout their senior year including “senior night” for each activity, a banquet at the end of each activity season, senior awards night, junior/senior prom, community baccalaureate service, and participation in the senior class picture.”

However, Zellmer declined verbal comment stating, “I will have no comment on individual student situations, as this would be a violation of FERPA. (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act).”

Jaidyn’s parents John and Suzy Teske also attended last Monday’s South Hardin School Board meeting with a statement as to why Jaidyn should be able to participate in the graduation ceremony, although no action was taken on their comments.

“From what I've gathered, the administration did not accept the homeschool credits, which is supposedly part of their discretion, but this 'ripples' into not being able to graduate,” Pascual clarified. “I might need to check my math on this, but from what I mocked up, if a student transfers in from a homeschool situation, and the principal doesn't accept those credits, even if it's a situation where they are taught the exact same material, this then ripples into the students ending credits.

“You see, technically, Jaidyn isn't even graduating from South Hardin with a diploma; she's actually technically going to college off of a 'homeschool' diploma. What's interesting again, is that the colleges accept these 'homeschool diplomas' generally, but it's just the school that isn't. I've seen other Iowa schools actually accept these homeschool credits with no problem, so it would be interesting to see why.”

Pascual also submitted a letter to the school board stating: “Dear members of the board, I ask that you allow my little sister, Jaidyn Teske, to close this great chapter of her life with South Hardin High School, on the highest note she can: allowing her to be with all of her classmates one last time, and celebrate with them, as they all graduate into adulthood. To go through the motions, with the cap and gown, the whole bit, and to be allowed to ‘walk,’ toward the commencement of being a graduate.

“I have seen how much Jaidyn, my parents, and my family as a whole, has given to the South Hardin community, and how much they have sacrificed in order to grow the athletic program. Whenever I come home to visit from California, my entire family is engulfed in athletics, and I see how proudly they represent South Hardin.

“I have come to understand that because of my sister’s homeschool credits not being allowed to transfer, she isn’t currently allowed to participate in the commencement ceremony. While I am not writing to argue the position of her credits or the specificity of her ‘graduating status’ as a SH enrolled student, I am writing to argue that this ‘credit transfer technicality’ between homeschooling and public school education is disadvantageous to students in that predicament. The students don’t ask to be in this situation, they just happen to be in it. This is very akin to moving/transferring schools, but with the disadvantage being that these homeschool credits don’t transfer. Jaidyn has been at South Hardin taking classes for quite some time, and has pretty much always been a ‘South Hardin High School Student.’ It seems that when it is convenient, especially in light of successful attributions, Jaidyn is ‘claimed’ as a SH student. However, when it comes to one of the biggest key events in a high schooler’s life, the commencement, she is not given that accompanying title.”

Pascual also said Jaidyn has already moved beyond this situation and is looking forward to attending college in the fall, but he believes the school board needs to “look closer into the rules” so that this situation does not happen to any other student. “Honestly, having a SHHS diploma is not even on Jaidyn's mind anymore,” he said. “She is already beyond that because she's been planning on attending college since last August.” This fall Jaidyn will be attending Northwestern College in Orange City.

“At the end of the day, I'm just a passionate big brother who lives in California that wishes he could see (Jaidyn) celebrate her commencement with her peers,” Pascual added.

South Hardin commencement is 1:30 p.m. Sunday, May 15 at the high school gym.



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