A policy meant to help struggling students has some families at La Vergne High School raising questions.
During the lunch period, students who are making poor grades are separated from their classmates and forced to eat in a separate location.
"Number one, it's cutting their lunch down," said parent Paul Morecraft.
Morecraft's daughter, who has special needs, is in the 10th grade at La Vergne High. He says he's concerned about students being separated during lunch based on academic standing.
"To me, it's considered separation, because you have your special needs kids and the kids getting the good grades on one side, and the kids getting below an 80 on the other side," Morecraft said.
Morecraft contacted the Rutherford County School District about his concerns.
"I call it a civil rights violation and segregation, no doubt," Morecraft said.
School leaders say La Vergne High has a split lunch period, half academic intervention to help students who may be struggling in a subject and half lunch.
"They are not segregating them in the traditional sense. If the kids' scores are low in certain areas, they are getting help in that area. If you want to label that segregation, then that's not the correct way to label it," said Rutherford County Schools spokesman James Evans.
Evans said this has been a practice at La Vergne High for two years as part of a statewide pilot program. It was previously called ESPN - Enrichment, Study Hall, Peer Tutoring, Needs Remediation - and was also held during lunch hours.
Some schools chose to work the intervention program into the regular school day, but La Vergne High has chosen the split-lunch concept with some students going to the auditorium for a learning lab first.
"We all want our kids to be successful, and that's exactly what this school is trying to do," Evans said. "They are giving students additional intervention times in areas they are struggling with, and that's a good thing. I can't see how anyone will be against that."
Ximena Jinenez, an 11th grade student, says she is all for extra intervention help.
"I don't think it's bad, it's good. We all need it. We need that little help in our lives," she said.
But she feels the lunch period should be just for that: lunch.
"We just want to sit with our friends," Jinenez said.
School officials say this concept during lunch has been a proven success. Two years ago, the graduation rate at La Vergne High School was about 77 percent, and it's now almost 90 percent.
La Vergne High has been doing this lunchtime intervention program for the better part of two years. Other schools in the district chose to do it at other times during the school day.
It's all part of the Tennessee Department of Education's program "RTI Squared" - Response to Instruction and Intervention Initiative, which will be rolled out in all high schools in the state in July 2014.
However, it will be left up to the individual schools on how and what time during the day to implement it.
Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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