Community Service is New Graduation Requirement for High School Students in Turlock

High School students in Turlock will now be required to complete 20 hours of community service prior to graduation, according to the unanimous vote by the Turlock Unified School District (TUSD) Board at its Tuesday evening meeting.

The new requirement will be effective immediately. Tenth grade students will now be required to complete 5 hours prior to the beginning of the second semester that will count for 5% of their World History grade; Eleventh grade students will be required to complete 5 hours prior to the beginning of the second semester that will count for 5% of their U.S. History grade; and twelfth grade students will be required to complete 10 hours of community service prior to the beginning of the second semester for 10% of their American Government grade.

A student does have an alternative option, however, should the student or parent feel uncomfortable with the community service requirement. The student could opt to write a 2,000 word essay about community service, citing three sources, instead of serving the community service hours.

Organizations that have shown interest in hosting students as volunteers include the Turlock Chamber of Commerce, the City of Turlock, Turlock Community Theatre, Emanuel Medical Center, Meals on Wheels, the Salvation Army, Turlock Gospel Mission, United Samaritans, Westside Ministries, as well as various animal shelters, nursing homes and more.

While the Board of Trustees all agreed that the new requirement would be positive for the high school students of Turlock, Trustee member Josh Bernard raised an important question regarding liability issues should a student be injured while volunteering at an offsite location.

“Most non-profits have liability policies to cover volunteers,” stated Superintendent Sonny De Marto. “Non-profits live by volunteers, so that’s a standard.”

De Marto also added that it would be wise to have parents sign waivers, much like when students attend field trips off campus, to ensure parental consent.

Trustee member Dr. Harinder Grewal shared that his two children, who attended the IB program in Modesto, were required to complete 150 hours of community service as part of the program, and that the liability would fall onto the parents’ insurance once the parents signed a consent waiver.

“Once they were done with those 150 hours, it honestly made them a better student,” stated Dr. Grewal in regards to his own children. “They became much more organized, and planned their schedules, and helped them learn to communicate.”

Hours for the requirement can be completed during the summer, as many students already have busy schedules during the school year due to extracurricular activities and part-time jobs on top of their school work.

The vote passed unanimously by the Board of Trustees, however, the Board of Trustees did request that the committee in charge of implementing the new requirement look further in to the liability issues that could potentially arise.

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