Bill would require schools to name valedictorians: Local districts react

An Ohio lawmaker’s proposal to force public schools to name one high school valedictorian and one salutatorian isn’t dissuading a local school district already drawing national attention for banning the practice.

Under a bill introduced by Ohio House Rep. Niraj Antani, public high schools across the state would be mandated by law to name a valedictorian and salutatorian.

But officials in southern Warren County’s Mason Schools are holding fast to their recently announced historic change of eliminating those top two academic honors starting next school year.

And though some other Butler County school districts have adjusted their procedures for determining top academic graduates, few showed initial interest in publicly backing Antani’s proposal.

“We strongly believe that this is a decision made best at the local level - rather than in Columbus,” said Tracey Carson, spokeswoman for the 11,000-student Mason Schools, which is consistently among the top-rated academic performing school systems in the region. “We appreciate that some Ohio school districts may wish to name a valedictorian - and they should continue to do so.

“In our community though - after a year-long conversation with families and residents, and over two years of conversations with students and alumni - we heard a desire to make a change. Those voices should not be discounted,” she said.

Antani said he was surprised to learn last month that a growing number of schools are doing away with the valedictorian title — which generally goes to the student with the highest grade-point average.

In Butler County’s Talawanda Schools, officials addressed the issue in recent years and decided to switch away from designating a traditional valedictorian and salutatorian.

“Talawanda researched this topic a great deal a few years ago, and the decision was made to transition to the Latin Honors Program by phasing it in with a new freshmen class,” said Holli Morrish, spokeswoman for the school district.

“Our administrators and counselors included in their research, interviews with many universities that reported back that a change to the Latin Honors Program would not inhibit students in any way from acceptance and scholarships,” said Morrish.

“If a particular university would like to know a student’s rank, that can still be determined on an individual basis. The Latin system allows our district to recognize and honor more of our top achieving students, and we do recognize this as a positive,” she said.

Lakota Schools, which is the largest suburban district in Southwest Ohio, is one of the few districts in the region to have two high schools.

“Both Lakota East and Lakota West high schools honor the top 25 students, including the valedictorian and salutatorian, each year. These students are selected based on their cumulative grade point average at the end of the school year. While we do not have plans to change the process at this time, it is important to recognize that success comes in many forms and should not be solely measured by a GPA (grade point average),” said Betsy Fuller, spokeswoman for the Lakota.

Mason Schools remains steadfast in their position, citing concerns about the health and mental well being of its students.

“We’ve had a disturbing number of students who have increasing levels of anxiety, depression & suicidal (thoughts),” said Carson.

“That’s why we’ve made a series of moves to help create well-rounded students who aren’t just looking to chase a ‘magic’ number or score, but are able to pursue learning they are interested in and that prepares them for life and to be positive contributors to our global economy,” she said.

(Jeremy Kelley of the Dayton Daily News contributed to this story)

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