Sue Fleming, Duval County Correspondent

FREER - The Freer School Board determined policy will remain in effect this year in regard to senior students who did not pass TAKS being ineligible to participate in Friday night's commencement exercises.

The policy was upheld after board member heard divided opinions upon the issue during last Monday night's regular meeting.

High school principal Ramon Pulido said seven seniors will not be allowed to participate in the ceremony because of the school's current TAKS policy.

Mary Cantu, the mother of a senior, addressed the board saying, "I don't agree with this one test stopping these kids from crossing that stage. I understand that this is a state policy, but I don't agree with this graduation policy."

Cantu explained she was not asking that the seniors who had not passed TAKS be given a diploma, but said she felt since they had attended classes, worked hard and had passing grades for 12 years, they deserved to take part in graduation.

"Give them something to look forward to, to come back in July and to retake the test. Some have been depressed, have been crying and see no reason to come back at all," she said. "Crossing the stage will make them feel better."

Afterward, board president Edna Cantu said she originally voted years ago that students not walk across the stage unless having passed TAKS, but now believes the policy should be changed.

"It's controversial, its a tough decision but I don't think we'd be lowering our standards," she said. "I've been in this place where these parents are. I had a stepdaughter who did not walk and I know what it feels like. It's hard."

Cantu said she had recently read information stating that 40,000 Texas seniors did not pass TAKS this year and that the legislature has even admitted there is a problem with TAKS testing, which has further caused her to change her mind.

Board member Mary Lou Garza then spoke in disagreement.

"I myself believe that, as a student, why would I want to cheat myself and get a blank diploma when all my friends know I'm not getting a real one?" she said in part. "In my opinion, the diploma is what counts - not crossing a stage with your friends, throwing up your cap or whatever. It's earning the diploma is what counts."

Edna Cantu then made a motion to change the policy allowing seniors to participate in graduation. The motion was not seconded.