13-Nov-2015 10:45

Mandating community service high schools

"Basically, student service learning is translating book-learning into action," he says.Although the Maryland Board of Education mandated community service, it made no provision for funds for personnel, teacher training, transportation or record-keeping.

A bill in the New Jersey Legislature would require high school seniors to complete 15 hours of service.However, opponents of this type of requirement have gone so far as to file a lawsuit claiming it violates the 13th Amendment, which bans involuntary servitude, and the First Amendment, because it forces the students into symbolic speech and imposes values.The Controversy in Maryland Maryland schools have offered community service as an elective course since 1985, but last summer Maryland became the first state to make it a high school graduation requirement, prompting the joke: "What do criminals and Maryland high school seniors have in common?" Answer: "They both get out by doing community service." Despite opposition from 22 of the state's 24 school systems, the Maryland State Board of Education created the new graduation requirement--75 hours of volunteer work over a seven-year period.Controversy simmers as some states try to make community service a high school graduation requirement.Not since the 1960s, when the boom in community service programs was at its peak, has there been such an interest in the idea of young people giving back to their community and learning through volunteer service.

Now, some schools are requiring it for graduation, but not without controversy.

A Maryland State Board of Education decision to require community service has met with such opposition that the Maryland General Assembly is expected to try to pass a bill prohibiting it.

The new regulation affects students entering 9th grade this fall.

Ron Peiffer, director of school and community outreach for the Maryland Department of Education, says local school systems have "a lot of latitude in developing their own service programs." Some are incorporating the requirement into their K-12 learning program and pairing service projects with course material.

Innocuous as the idea of community service may sound, a vocal group of parents and educators objects to the fact that it is mandatory.

The Anne Arundel County Board of Education has protested that "required volunteerism is a contradiction in terms." But Peiffer believes some of the opposition is based on misconceptions.

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