Mandating community service high schools

The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling, reiterating that the School Code provides school districts the discretion to add graduation requirements, such as service learning.The Court rejected the parent’s argument that the voluntary service credit program precludes mandatory service learning hours.She asserted that Section 27-22 of the School Code set forth the minimum and maximum graduation requirements for Illinois schools and that community service is not one of the requirements.She also argued that the legislature provided a volunteer service credit program allowing districts to offer course credit for community service work, thereby indicating that school districts are prohibited from making community service mandatory.While this seems like an admirable trend, in terms of inculcating civic virtue and promoting the importance of giving back, there is a very fair objection to be made: if you make volunteering mandatory, is it still volunteering?Without getting too deep into the Kantian ethical weeds regarding the relative importance of intentions versus results, I think we can say that, especially for minors, some amount of coercion to do the right thing (in the hopes that such actions will be repeated without pressure in the future) is acceptable. As every parent knows, if we were really under some burden to explain why they had to do everything we make them do, we wouldn’t get very far.

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My personal conclusion is that a 40-hour minimum is rather onerous, but that a simple requirement of 10 hours such as I had is worth any grumbling from a few students.

But by the end of high school, things change somewhat.

Minors are still minors, but we must extend some slack to them, to encourage them to come into their own as young adults.

The Court also found that the mandatory service requirement did not constitute a form of involuntary servitude because the requirement of six hours of service for each school year was “not unreasonable, onerous, or unduly burdensome making it akin to involuntary servitude.” This decision affirms the authority of school districts to add graduation requirements to those listed in the School Code, including mandatory service learning hours.

Not only are today’s teenagers expected to carry a large load of honors and AP classes, participate in sports and other extracurricular clubs and honor societies, and possibly hold down a part-time job to pay for car and personal expenses, but it is now common place for high schools to have a volunteer service hour minimum as part of their graduation requirements.

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