Badges spur school walkout, suspensions at Palisade High

More than 100 students staged a walkout, and 30 students were suspended, Wednesday at Palisade High School over a badge system that grants lunch privileges based on grades, class and attendance record.

The badge system, in its second year at the school, grants privileges such as being allowed to leave the normally closed campus during lunch, provided students maintain good grades and a good attendance record.

Comfrey Jacobs, a sophomore suspended in connection with the walkout, said he had been circulating a petition for weeks against the system because it violates student privacy.

“That’s what we care most about,” Jacobs said. “It’s unfair.”

Privilege badges identify students who maintain Cs or better in their classes and aren’t repeatedly tardy to class, said Dan Bollinger, assistant principal at Palisade.

Students who don’t meet the grade requirements or have poor attendance must attend either tutoring or detention for the first 25 minutes of their lunch period, Bollinger said, but those students can earn their badges back if they improve.

After its first year, the number of tardies dropped by 23,000, he said, and the number of Ds and Fs handed out dropped by 600.

“If you think about 23,000 classroom disturbances, that’s pretty significant,” Bollinger said. “We’re doing this for the students. There is no personal gain for teachers at all from this.”

Separating the student body by grades and attendance is embarrassing for those who lost badges, Jacobs said.

Slashing lunches also adds stress for students without badges because Palisade only has one lunch period to serve about 1,000 students, he said.

“I know kids that can’t even eat lunch because lines are too long,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs said he gathered more than 350 signatures that included students, parents and school staff on his petition, which is allowed according to school board policy.

“When we first found out about the petition we thought, ‘What a great expression of their rights,’ ” Bollinger said. “But there’s a right way and a wrong way. The walkout was not the right way.”

The walkout was scheduled for 9 a.m., Jacobs said, and he was pulled out of class before the protest and had his cell phone confiscated for sending text messages about the walkout.

Bollinger said students that were caught walking out were suspended, and the Palisade Police Department was called in by the school.

One student was detained for knocking over John McCain campaign signs on private property, Police Chief Carroll Quarles said, and other students were trespassing on private property and asked to leave.

“It was all pretty laid back,” Quarles said. “But it was an interesting situation.”


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