After much debate, the Union R-XI board approved a policy that will allow students who receive up to 10 days out-of-school suspension (OSS) the opportunity to earn 100 percent credit for work missed.

The motion barely passed with a 4-3 vote, as board members Virgil Weideman, Ron Sohn and Kate Jones voted against the policy.

The three board members said they voted nay because they said it didn’t seem fair to let students who are suspended have the same opportunity to get the same credit as students who are still at school.

Board member Ron Sohn said he didn’t think putting a student out of school on suspension was enough punishment to keep them from repeating offenses.

“There’s nothing else there that harms them or is a deterrent to them,” Sohn said. “There are some kids who might not view that as a detriment, but as a positive.”

Sohn said he would have liked to have seen a policy that would allow students to receive up to 70 percent credit at both the elementary and secondary levels.

The previous policy allowed students at the elementary level to make up and receive 70 percent of credit earned for assignment. No credit was given at the secondary level.

“What are you doing if you give a kid 10 days’ suspension and you allow them to make up all the work?” Sohn said. “Why give them suspension at all?”

Students who are suspended will have to work harder to make up work because they don’t have the benefits of being in the classroom to get help, and they are responsible for getting the missed work themselves, principals said.

Building administrators also argued that penalizing students academically should not be part of the punishment, and that removing them from the social environment and extracurricular activities would be an effective deterrent.

The administrators told the board that “frequent flyers” probably won’t make up the work anyway, and they didn’t want students who might have made a mistake or two to “lose hope” of passing.

As for the “frequent flyers,” the principals said they wanted to change the policy in case students who were regular offenders decided they wanted to change and become good students.

“We’re here to educate kids and give them every opportunity to be successful in school,” board member Jim Borgmann said.

School board member Teresa Connelly said the Missouri School Board Association recommends letting students make up work for full credit and not use grades as a disciplinary measure.

“If we’re supposed to do what’s in the best interest of the children, how can we justify ripping them off by taking away their credit?” Connelly said. “Even criminals on death row get what they need.”