COLUMBIANA - Over the last two weeks, Crestview senior Aaron Rankin learned not only will he not be able to receive his diploma until he passes a portion of the Ohio Graduation Test (OGT), he was also not allowed participate in today's commencement activities.
However, on Saturday the board of education changed its tune and has granted Aaron permission to join his fellow classmates and friends for today's commencement.
"This is just a relief," Aaron said. "I am just relieved that I get the opportunity to walk with my friends and classmates and be happy."
Aaron earned back the right to participate after the board voted to temporarily suspend its current policy, which has prevented students who failed the OGT from graduation ceremonies, after meeting in executive session with Aaron and his parents, Terry and Kimberly Rankin.
This also gives seniors like Aaron's cousin, Amber Rankin, the opportunity to participate.
"I would imagine Amber will be excited once she hears this," Kimberly said. "It's not just for Aaron though. It's for all the other seniors who didn't pass the OGT but will still get that chance to join their friends and class for commencement."
The four board members who attended, President John Garwood, Dr. Ed Miller, James Weikart and David Vollnogle, along with superintendent John Dilling saw the situation as tough, and agree with Aaron's father, Terry, some change in commencement policies may need to be made.
"It was a very difficult decision," Crestview Superintendent John Dilling said. "This affects several students who were in the same position. We're going to have to look into this rule into the future."
"I think the state should take a look into this," Terry said. "At least if they change the policy on commencement or make it clearer, it would help."
Crestview's current commencement policy, as found in the by-laws, states the following:
"Commencement exercises will include only those students who have successfully completed requirements for graduation as certified by the high school principal or those students who have been deemed eligible to participate in such exercises in accordance with the terms of their IEP. No student who has completed the requirements for graduation shall be denied a diploma as a disciplinary measure. A student may be denied participation in the ceremony of graduation when personal conduct so warrants."
There is no mention of the OGT in the rule, which the Rankins pointed out and noted all high school requirements were met except for the social studies portion of the OGT, which he failed by five points and will retake on the week of June 20.
Despite this, the board pointed out Aaron's past including a run-in with the law, 42 days absent for a broken jaw which were later excused, and a suspension for detrimental conduct this year.
In giving their yes votes, both Miller and Garwood explained their concerns.
"You have had several chances in the past that you had fluffed off," Miller said. "Sunday is about being an adult. We are here to help you and help others out. There are some of you that didn't get this opportunity. I would strongly consider taking this test this summer."
"You are now an adult, and it's time you made some good choices," Garwood said. "Take the test in June and pass it. I'm hoping in 10 or 15 years, you could sit here in this board room as a member as a testament to your success, and to clean up."
Aaron, who was on the football and baseball teams and looks to attend Youngstown State University for nursing, acknowledged the board members were right in their comments.
"He definitely hit the nail on the head," Aaron said. "Yes, I did screw up a lot. I have made a lot of mistakes, but they let me do this after all the things that I've done and for that I am very thankful."
The board's other two members, Preston Jon Straley and Brayden Tucker, were not present for the meeting.
Commencement will take place at 2 p.m. at the Crestview Performing Arts Center.