Hernando third graders promoted after judge's ruling, but not all to chosen schools
Hailey Everett, Maddison Hohman and Madelynn Kinkade arrived at Hernando County's Chocachatti Elementary School just before classes began Monday, ready to enter fourth grade. They left unhappy.
The Hernando County school district, blasted by a Leon County Court judge for its stance on third-grade promotion, had principal Lara Silva tell the girls' parents they could enter fourth grade at their zoned neighborhood schools -- just not at Chocachatti.
"They are not registered at this school," Silva told them.
She declined to comment to the Tampa Bay Times. School district officials did not return calls.
Only minutes earlier, the parents had learned that one of their co-plaintiffs in their lawsuit challenging Florida's third-grade retention rules had been allowed into fourth grade at his Hernando elementary school. [Update: There has been discussion since this post first published, questioning whether the child will be allowed into the fourth grade. We are still waiting for more information.]
Pam Everett, Hailey's mom, contended that the girls had not pulled out of Chocachatti, a magnet school, but rather had been removed from the school inappropriately by the district. She said she had been told they had 10 days to attend classes, which they had not gone to while waiting a decision on whether they could be placed in fourth grade.
They were dropped after five days, Everett said.
While criticizing the district's "illegal refusal" to consider portfolios and report cards when promoting third graders, Judge Karen Gievers did not say the district had to place children in any school they wish.
"That issue of possible retaliation, arbitrary and capricious conduct is not presently before the Court in this case," Gievers wrote in her ruling.
Maddison had arrived at the school, backpack slung across her shoulders, excited to resume classes after days of what amounted to home schooling.
"It's been really nervewracking," she said. "I'm just really happy that the judge said we can go to school."
But she and her mom, Melinda, were teary eyed after Silva delivered the news that they couldn't return to Chocachatti.
"We fought to get in here," Melinda Hohman said, standing outside the school fence, watching other students walk to class. "She's been here from kindergarten on."
Everett, whose daughter was held back despite evidence of reading at a fifth grade level, said she would work with the other families to fight for their children's rights at Chocachatti.
"It's an awesome school, that's why we're fighting so hard," Everett said. "We're going to go raise money for this lawsuit, because it's not over."