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Mandatory After School Activities

Original post made by Palo Alto Resident, Crescent Park, on May 1, 2015

There was a lively discussion on this Forum last December about legal right of schools to assign homework. My question is not the same, but similar.

Many times teachers require a particular activity after school and on the weekend is mandatory. It's counted in their grades. What's the legal basis for school to assign mandatory event performance, mandatory event attendance, or mandatory event anything after school or on weekends?

Many of our kids are involved in outside activities not connected to the school. These outside activities don't schedule during on school hours. What gives the school the right to impose on the outside activities' hours?

Comments (30)

Posted by Absolutimente Nada
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2015 at 8:07 am

The school district can NOT superimpose their wishes on kids during the kids' personal time. That is strictly the parents' domain.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2015 at 8:26 am

I think that if you are registered for choir, music, drama, etc. it would follow that there are outside school hours expectations for those classes, but at the same time, if a student has a valid reason for not being able to attend one of these events, e.g. a family wedding coinciding with a choir concert, then their grade should not be affected.

However, pulling weeds after school or attending community events at the Baylands for biology credit, is not a realistic expectation!


Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 2, 2015 at 10:00 am

Original Poster - what type of activity are you talking about? If its performance related (like the bands in the May Fete parade), those are to be expected and are usually clearly stated up front at the beginning of the school year. My kids have been asked to go to the Cantor museum and the PA Art Center to view art and write something about it, but they had a couple of weeks to do that, not a particular time.


Posted by Good Question
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 2, 2015 at 11:45 am

I don't think they can mandate activities outside of the school day. And what if someone is sick the morning of the parade, or goes to temple or church, or has a job. When a student misses school with a valid excuse, they can make up the work. Therefore, even if they could assign something outside of the school day, a teacher could not give a zero to someone for missing one of these events without giving the opportunity to "make it up" with something else. It is not the kid's problem as to what that make-up event would be, or whether they should just get excused from that "assignment." Retaliation manifested in other aspects of the grade would not be surprising however with some teachers.


Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 2, 2015 at 4:51 pm

The school routinely imposes events outside of school hours.

Almost every performance arts class (choir, band, drama, theater) has required performances during evenings and weekends. These events are counted towards their grades. May Fete parade, evening concerts, drama events, singing events, are all required by the class teacher to get grades

I understand why such events are needed -- they are performing arts -- and that the school (usually) announces these dates at the start of the year or given notices months ahead. That's not the point. The point is that these may still conflict with events that are also scheduled -- weddings, swim meets, family events, sports tournaments, and yes, even pulling weeds if the family so chooses.

The school board must adopt a policy that these events are voluntary, not mandatory.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2015 at 5:56 pm

Not sure if I would call the performances "voluntary" as for a performance art some performing should be expected. However, I would think that at the teacher's discretion, a valid excuse with proof should not affect the grade. If you make the performances voluntary, they will start to be abused.


Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 2, 2015 at 6:57 pm

Mandatory performances should be in school time only. Any outside performance should be voluntary.

As I said in the original post, outside activities do not impose on school time. The school shouldn't impose activities outside school time.

School Board needs to take up this issue.


Posted by Going Too Far
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2015 at 7:37 pm

@Palo Alto Resident:

I think you're going too far. If you don't want to participate in non-school hour performances then don't take those ELECTIVES. These classes are enrichment opportunities that are not required by Federal or state education requirements. The evening and weekend performances would be extremely difficult to plan and execute if a lot of students don't participate.

While I agree that teachers should not assign oodles of homework under the assumption students have no life outside of school, I don't agree that performing arts electives should not be allowed to require a few evening or weekend performances. If a student has a major conflict, they can work that out individually with the teacher.

Let's not dilute the valid argument that teachers should not assign copious amount of daily homework without giving students ample flexibility in getting it done. That includes implementing the homework policy so students are not buried in homework.


Posted by Going Too Far
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2015 at 7:44 pm

I forgot to mention: requiring all performance related activities to occur during the regular school day would mean many, many parents would not be able to see their children perform.

Performing arts are electives, not requirements. If you don't want to perform outside of school time, don't take the electives and take private lessons instead. You do have that option.


Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 2, 2015 at 8:57 pm

I would love to know what Palo Alto Resident means before jumping to conclusion. Generally music concerts aren't held on weekends, at least for the lower grades.

It seems to me the kids who would have the most trouble attending a music event outside of school hours would be those who would be least able to access the music education as an extracurricular, so I don't think it's reasonable to just dismiss someone because it's an elective. It seems like it would be easy enough to split out kids at the start of the year who will perform during the school day and those who will perform at night. The schools usually have a preview drama performance at school and one at night, it seems like an equivalent thing would be reasonable for music, with the school performance mandatory and the evening optional (but signed up for in advance).

The general principle of the schools having to consider a clear boundary between school and home, and not being able to consider home time as a slush fund for school, is very real. It's not just that kids shouldn't have tendrils of school constantly bleeding over into their home time, they should be able to count on clearer boundaries between when the school day ends and home time begins. When learning is really exciting and beneficial, they may bring work home, but it should be a true choice, out of interest and learning, and not for grade.


Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 2, 2015 at 9:11 pm

The amount of homework is irrelevant in this discussion. Event conflicts happen regardless of homework load. It happens when families are quite busy. It also happens when they're not.

Such conflicts are often completely out of the hands of the student and family. If the student doesn't show up for the school event, it affects their grade. There is often no work around individually with teachers if they say no (it absolutely happens). In my opinion, it should be the other way around -- schools need a work around with families, i.e., ask students to attend voluntarily. Many will. Some won't.

It's easy to say don't take the class because it's an elective. But a student should not be excluded from or receive a lower grade in any public school class because they have a conflict outside of school hours. It doesn't matter if the class is an elective.

A student who is in band shouldn't have to chose between getting a lower grade in band (or theater) vs risk being fired from an after school job (or not compete in a sports tournament) due to a schedule conflict on "performance day." The student should be entitled to do both without any repercussions, permissions, or exemptions.

I never called for eliminating after school events. It's a valuable experience for students and families cherish them. I'm sure most everyone would continue to support such events. But sometimes, a student can't make it and it shouldn't affect their grades.

Grade-scoring events should be in school hours. Anything after school should be volunteer only.


Posted by Going Too Far
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2015 at 9:37 pm

@Parent of JLS said:

"It seems to me the kids who would have the most trouble attending a music event outside of school hours would be those who would be least able to access the music education as an extracurricular..."

Not sure how you make that leap. Sounds like an individual issue is being generalized to make it sound like it is an issue for many.

"...so I don't think it's reasonable to just dismiss someone because it's an elective."

Asking ELECTIVE programs to accommodate students with extremely restrictive schedules is unreasonable. If a kids' schedule is so restricted they should seek private lessons/instruction, not expect the public school to create special arrangements (at the expense of all taxpayers and students) to accommodate these kids that want to have their cake and eat it too.

@Parent of JLS is singing the same song (which I have mostly agreed with) as on many other threads, but I disagree with this one. @Palo Alto Resident of Crescent Park sounds an awful lot like @Parent of JLS... Ying and Yang? Computer and cell phone?

Life is full of choices, so kids should not expect everyone else to revolve around them - that is so "Me" generation. Performing arts require non-school practice, rehearsal, and performance. If you don't want that, then don't take those ELECTIVES.

Please don't expect the public school to accommodate families who over-schedule their kids but still want to take full advantage of high-value ELECTIVES. Make choices!


Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 2, 2015 at 9:51 pm

@Going Too Far...

"If a kids' schedule is so restricted they should seek private lessons/instruction, not expect the public school to create special arrangements (at the expense of all taxpayers and students) to accommodate these kids that want to have their cake and eat it too."...

"Please don't expect the public school to accommodate families who over-schedule their kids but still want to take full advantage of high-value ELECTIVES. Make choices!"

It's the other way around. You're expecting the taxpayers to subsidize classes that are NOT available to everyone in the school. Just because a student has an after-school job or has a wedding to attend doesn't mean they shouldn't take band, or theater, or whatever, in school. By excluding such students, you're expecting their families to subsidize. There should NOT be a choice between school and after school.

And its NOT a matter of over scheduling. My family should NOT have to decline attending a wedding or other personal events -- whatever my family chooses -- based on school-imposed performance requirements after school hours. What right does the school have to do so?!


Posted by Going Too Far
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2015 at 10:17 pm

@Palo Alto Resident:

You are expecting the school to write policy over a potential conflict like a wedding? Sorry, but no. If a family has an unavoidable conflict they can work that out with the teacher. Based on experience, I know this to be true.

If a student chooses to have an after-school job, that is their choice, but not a reason for the school district to prioritize the wants of the few (or one) over the wants of the many. Again, if the student has a particular situation that creates an unavoidable conflict, they should work that out with the teacher / school. The only case I can imagine where a student has to work instead of attending a performance for an elective class is the student is working to support their family. Teachers and school officials would accommodate that.

All classes are available to all students. If the class requirements, schedules, etc do not work for a given student, then the student needs to make a choice.

This angle is just unreasonable, and is discrediting the large proportion of parents that are asking for implementation of the homework policy and management to prevent test stacking. This "performance arts" argument truly sounds like major whining and a Me-centric focus.

Keep your eye on the ball and focus on the homework policy and test stacking, not a couple of choir performances per year.


Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 2, 2015 at 10:36 pm

@Palo Alto Resident of Crescent Park sounds an awful lot like @Parent of JLS... Ying and Yang? Computer and cell phone?

Nope. Actually, I see a lot of people posting very similar things to me, I wish I even knew who they were. Weekly, it would be wonderful if you added a feature where you could essentially "ping" other people kind of like through 23 and me, and if the person has agreed to receive the contact request, then the contact info is shared. It would encourage more people to register, and allow people to build connections across the community. I have thought so many times in these discussions that I wish I knew who some of the posters are, especially since they are from other parts of town and I am unlikely to meet them IRL.

When people have a concern or complaint, I usually don't make assumptions off the bat that it is unreasonable, that's all. The OP has not explained.

The suggestion I made, where for music, the kids might perform for the school, or even younger classmates, together as a full orchestra, and then in the evening for families with those who choose, would be one way to handle it -- possibly. In fact, something like that would make extra opportunities available for solos, etc. I say this even though, my own child didn't get to go to on more than one school trip because the school was impossible to just dialog with over health accommodations. Even though we are unhappy about that, I would never want to make a stink about it because the end point isn't going to solve anything for my child and those kinds of battles end up taking away from kids who do get to go which I would never want to do, I don't personally think it's fair to do that to other kids. So, I do see both sides.

I just think it's really important to hear people, and help if possible, especially if it's no skin off anyone else's nose. We just don't know. The expression of a desire to set better boundaries between school and home is obviously one of my core issues.


Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 2, 2015 at 10:45 pm

@Too Far,
I'm thinking back to drama in high school, much less illustrious circumstances, and our performances were almost all during the day... If you knew the demographic of the district, this made absolute sense. We had a new teacher who held a variety show in the evening but now I can't remember if it was extracurricular or part of the program.

it is done. What seems like a problem at first could be an opportunity for understudies :-)


Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 2, 2015 at 11:03 pm

I'm not advocating for policy specifically for weddings or any particular event. I would argue no one -- not even the "majority" as you put it -- is entitled to make that call. What students and families do outside of school hours and when is a personal choice, nothing more.

Just because the school says it's okay to have school-imposed events after school hours, doesn't mean it is okay. Many parents experience is different from yours -- the teacher did NOT budge when it came to a conflict. The threat was clear -- absence means reduced grade. Because in their opinion, the school activity was more "important" than the outside one. I see no right for the school to decide that after school hours, and in my opinion, they don't.


Posted by Going Too Far
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2015 at 11:17 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 3, 2015 at 2:15 am

@Going too far

I am posting for myself and under no other names above. I do not live on the north side of town. Going too Far, You have gone way too far with your accusations.

My only hard and fast suggestion above is to hear people out rather than dismiss them out of hand, the rest are just ideas. There is way to much jumping all over people and can't-do attitude when people don't even know what's going on. It sounds now like maybe the OP is upset about the teacher making it impossible for an excused absence for a personal conflict with a school-related event after hours.

@ Palo Alto Resident Crescent Park

I am no lawyer, this is just another parent speaking. If your child has a conflict with school (whether after hours or during school), you may find the info you need in the California Ed Code 48205
Web Link
Notwithstanding Section 48200, a pupil shall be excused from school when the absence is:
"...For justifiable personal reasons, including, but not limited to, an appearance in court, attendance at a funeral service, observance of a holiday or ceremony of his or her religion, attendance at religious retreats, attendance at an employment conference,..."

What's really interesting is it's not clear whether the principal's approval is required for a particular provision or for all of them (absent a comma, it appears to be for a particular one).

If your child has an excused absence, the school cannot penalize your child. Depending on how important it is to you, you may wish to consult an education lawyer.

@ Going too far,
I don't know what you mean by "perfect scenario" - I have been pretty clear that I would like to draw a healthier and more substantial boundary between school and home, and that educational program should account for that. It sounds like perhaps the OP feels s/he wouldn't have to deal with whatever helplessness they are dealing with if that were the case.

As far as making individual accommodations, for students who need them, that is the law, not my idea. As far as aspiring to it, our district's vision includes "...empowering every child to reach his or her full intellectual, social, and creative potential." That cannot be done if one-size-fits-all is a goal in and of itself, if that is the direction of your post. It's simply not necessary, either, I can't imagine why anyone would want to force that on children when it isn't necessary. Sir Ken Robinson has a wonderful TED talk on that issue. And Professor Kohler at Stanford.

Talking to people, taking them seriously, showing compassion, treating our students as individuals and their families as deserving of respect -- I just don't think those are mutually exclusive with dealing with our homework burdens.


Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 3, 2015 at 6:49 am

Thank you JLS Parent for the weblink. I shall try to find someone more knowledgeable regarding education law. Thank you also for pointing out that there are many issues that affect students and families, not each the same way.

I'm fairly sure we all want students to have as many opportunities and choices as possible, both in school and outside school. This particular issue restricts that.


Posted by GradingPolicy
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 3, 2015 at 6:50 am

Interesting conversation. But we lack any framework to organize this discussion. I don't really consider it "Homework".

The district lacks a grading policy: what constitutes a grade, what constitutes an excused item, distribution, consistency across teachers.

Some teachers would gladly grant a child exemption for a family wedding; while other teachers use grades like a cudgel to beat compliance out of students.

The worst offenders stick to Zero- Late policy, even though that was in the homework policy.

It would help the parents to know there are consistently applied rules around grading so that every wedding, funeral and illness is not a stressful negotiation of whether my kid will be penalized.

(And I am aware that this is mostly a High School thing as MS and Elem grades are less critical, but should still nonetheless have consistency)


Posted by Commitment
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 3, 2015 at 8:46 am

Then there is the issue of commitment to an ensemble. What some parents here seem to be arguing for the power of a choice about when, where, how, and under what circumstances a performing artist will maintain a commitment to the ensemble they have ELECTED to be part of. The students have CHOSEN this activity, and the level of commitment that goes with it is always clearly stated up front. To demand to be a part of the ensemble purely on one's own terms is symbolic of the snowflake, individualistic, self-centered culture that creates so much conflict here.

When you are in a drama production or an orchestra or band concert or a dance performance, you are a member of an ensemble and EVERYONE else in the ensemble is counting on you and TRUSTING you to follow through on the commitment you make to that ensemble. It is a simple, yet absolutely vital part of being a participant in these art forms and these smaller arts communities. You are sacrificing your own self-centered, tiny little skull-sized kingdom for the good of the group. It's a great lesson in humility, which is certainly lacking in this neck of the woods. I guess for some people around here that veers too close to communism or something. Sheesh.


Posted by student
a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 3, 2015 at 8:54 am

Electives aren't part of the GPA so...who cares?


Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 3, 2015 at 9:47 am

@student - Electives are absolutely part of your GPA for almost all colleges - just not UC's. In that same vain, while the UC's don't give "credit" for a class you have taken and gotten a "D" in, many colleges will.


Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 3, 2015 at 10:44 am

School-related commitments, even if in an ensemble, is what school hours are for. Personal commitments are after school.

An "elective" is a specific course that is not mandated by the school. As a group, electives are still REQUIRED by the school. They are NOT optional. What if all "elective" classes impose after-school hours? What then?

Why do performance arts REQUIRE performances after school hours? Why can't a grade-related performance be held during school hours?



Posted by Performing Arts Supporter
a resident of Greene Middle School
on May 3, 2015 at 10:52 am

There are a number of reasons why these performances don't take place during school hours. I think the most compelling would be that students performing would have to be pulled out of their other classes to perform and more students still would have to be pulled to be an audience. In addition, many working parents would not be able to attend these performances. Performing for an audience is a huge part of the learning in music and theatre classes.


Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 3, 2015 at 6:42 pm

This is an interesting discussion, but the OP did not specify the reason, so I do not think there is any call to be judgmental. We once took time off because of a close but out-of-town family member having a bone marrow transplant that went wrong, there were myriad reasons we did not wish to have to explain the details.

I am reminded of how I feel when I receive a sheet asking my child to account for all time 24 hours a day -- what business is it of anyone at school?

Performing arts groups make do in all kinds of circumstances, including illness. I hope no one is suggesting that people are saying it's ok for kids to sign up for performance electives, with a contract at the start that lists the dates of after hours performances, and flake out at the last minute for silly reasons. Not at all. But kids get sick, too, and other things happen in life. It's not the end of the world.


Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2015 at 5:27 pm

Not all electives require commitments after-school. There's a very long tradition of performances taking place when parents and non-students can actually see the performance. It's also well understood that when you commit to doing a performance, you don't miss it--other performers are relying on you.

The OP sounds like he or she has little experience with performing and somewhat unreasonable expectations about accommodations.

Not everyone wants to or is able to put in the time and effort for a performance-oriented class. Fortunately, there are alternatives that don't require performance.


Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 4, 2015 at 6:49 pm

For heavens sake, the outside commitment can often a performing arts too!

It can also be a sports team, a debate team, a chess tournament, a martial arts event, or... wait for it... a weekend class that the student is taking for school credit! Yes, these and many more are possibilities!

These activities are held AFTER SCHOOL HOURS for a reason. Believe it or not, these activities also have "performance" events of their own held AFTER SCHOOL HOURS.

What right does the school have the right to quash or over-ride these opportunities for students held AFTER SCHOOL HOURS??


Posted by Sonia
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jun 3, 2017 at 5:04 pm

A friend of mine is going through this now at another school district ... Music is a MANDATORY class but in 5th grade, music class changes into band class. The class takes place 3x per week. Plus the school is requiring after-school rehearsals one day per week.

Her question ... her child has been learning a very demanding instrument already for the last 2 years. She does not want to add to that by introducing another, totally different instrument that the school says must also be practiced. Both parents are working and it is already hectic to get the child to practice the first instrument. So far, the school has not reacted positively to a request to exempt the child from the class. Any advice on this? If the school won't exempt the child, should she just stay in the class but not being able to put in full practice time on this? Anyone else have the experience of your child learning one instrument intensively and then school requiring they take up another instrument?

Thanks.


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