EL PASO, Texas - Students in the El Paso Independent School District won't be required to log 120 hours of community service to walk at graduation anymore effective immediately.
The EPISD board voted Tuesday evening to do away with the policy, and instead make it a voluntary option.
"Community service was one of my ideas," said EPISD Superintendent Juan Cabrera after Tuesday's vote. He told reporters that he actually proposed making 120 hours of community service a requirement for students to graduate, and not just to walk the stage, saying the graduation ceremony is a privilege, not a right.
"Unfortunately, we're going to make it voluntary," he added. Cabrera said he didn't want to create extra problems with the policy, and realized there was a lot of pushback, but he still thinks it's important to help students do more in terms of civic engagement, adding that civic engagement is important in creating well-rounded students.
The policy will now be just an extra award that can be given to students for their graduation ceremony.
Ysleta ISD is another district that requires students to do community service, but only requires 80 hours as opposed to 120.
When asked why YISD has a higher success rate, Cabrera said it's because they require 40 hours less than EPISD
"I'm sure a lot of kids would want to do 80 hours if we look at the stats. I thought 120 hours was fair...15 a semester," said Cabrera.
If the policy was kept, the Class of 2018 would have been the first graduating class required to log 120 hours of community service to walk at their graduation ceremony.
EPISD Assistant Superintendent Carla Gonzales said earlier in the semester, she found out a lot of the district's high schools had only about 11% of their seniors logging hours.
"That's when it first became something that we brought forward in terms of being concerned," Gonzales said. "This could have huge ramifications to a number of students. Not because they wouldn't be graduating, but they wouldn't be participating because of the community service element."
The policy went into effect when the district was being run by a state-appointed board of managers in 2014. At the time, seniors in the current Class of 2018 were freshmen.
Gonzales said they're still asking for the board to honor and help reinforce the community service mentality, but to not tie it to the graduation ceremony.