Pine River-Backus School Board considers applying attendance/grade policies to drivers ed/community ed

Current policies focus on extracurricular sports

Echo Journal file photo

PINE RIVER — Under new policies, Pine River-Backus students could be barred from drivers education if they don't meet the same standards as the school's athletes.

The Pine River-Backus School Board had a second reading of three policies with proposed changes during its Monday, June 13, regular meeting, including policy 501 on weapons, 503 on attendance and 510 on school activities.

The policy on school activities states that students must have a minimum C minus grade-point average with no failing classes to participate in extracurricular activities. Students will also be barred from extracurricular activities if they exceed 12 days of absences.

Finally, students who miss afternoon classes due to illness cannot participate in activities.

At the May meeting, board members said the school district needs to make sure it is enforcing these rules in all extracurricular groups equally. Monday's meeting started with a proposal by Superintendent Jonathan Clark that the board should consider applying the same restrictions to activities in the community education program, including driver's education.


Clark said not all students are involved in sports, speech, theater or other extracurricular activities, and under the current school policy they may be misbehaving, yet still participating in activities through community education.

Board Chair Chris Cunningham said some parents will likely be upset about the policy change, so if the board decides to make that change they must be willing to support staff that enforces school policies.

The policy is meant to incentivize attendance and minimum grade performances in a way that could encourage students and parents to take grades and attendance more seriously. The policy would not stop students from attending driver's education through a business or another school.

Cunningham wants more clarity in the district's weapon policy. He proposed a scenario where a student's car is searched for contraband possibly by mistake and having items that are defined in the school policies as weapons found in their vehicle. He mentioned chains and clubs as example since some students might carry towing chains for a car or a bat for baseball.

He also mentioned items such as mace, which some students might carry for self defense when they are at work after school.

Clark said the school district generally considers the student's intended use of an item. If they have no indication the student has any plan to use a towing chain as a weapon, then the student will not be punished for having one in a vehicle.

However, if a student had earlier made a threat to a fellow student and then the chain is found, the consequences may be different.

Cunningham said he doesn't see any place in the policy that addresses intended use. He wants the district's policy to give solid instructions that won't be interpreted differently from student to student without that reason being explained in the policy.


Clark said he will consult with the school district's attorney.

In other business Monday, the board:

  • Accepted the resignation of Joseph Heinecke as paraprofessional and approved his hiring as technology specialist.
  • Accepted the resignation of Rachel Telfer as interventionist and approved her hiring as curriculum director.
  • Accepted the resignations of Gina Dabill, youth and family services worker; Nancy Sandeen, family and consumer skills teacher; and Steve Sandeen, industrial technology teacher.
  • Awarded contracts for trash collection to Waste Partners, for bread and related products to Pan-O-Gold and for milk and related products to Kemps.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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