Dropping Out of High School?
Please read this page first before you do anything else!
With the horrific tragedy involving St. Petersburg Police Officer David Crawford, who was shot by a 15 year old attending Gibbs High School who had a history of attendance issues (as of 2012, the student, Nicholas Lindsey, is serving a life sentence in the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections), I was inspired to write this topic that discusses an all too important subject involving students in high school who decide not to finish their education by dropping out. So, if you are (or a parent of a student who is) contemplating dropping out of high school, I strongly encourage you to read this topic all the way through.
This topic is Pinellas County School District specific. If you live in another Florida county or out of Florida check your school district's procedures on handling of students who intend to terminate school enrollment. Additionally, if you live outside Florida check your state's compulsory attendance laws as these laws differ from state to state.
Also discussed in this topic is what if, despite the advice given to you from school officials not to drop out, you indeed proceed and drop out of school. It is presented here as a convenience to those high school students that have indeed dropped out of high school. Your webmaster does NOT advocate dropping out of high school as a cure-all for problems that may arise in high school and this topic is not to be interpreted as such.
ATTENTION PINELLAS COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPALS, ASSISTANT PRINCIPALS, GUIDANCE COUNSELORS AND DISTRICT DROPOUT PREVENTION STAFF: You may use this page as a tool in discussing with your students who have expressed a desire in dropping out of high school, provided appropriate credit is given.
The following is a resource page of interest for high school students, particularly high school students in the Pinellas County School District, seeking to terminate enrollment in high school prior to graduation. This process is commonly known as dropping out. Also discussed here is what can be done if the student has indeed dropped out of high school as well.
First things first: Florida's Compulsory School Attendance Law
Florida's compulsory school attendance law - codified in Section 1003.21 of the Florida Statutes - requires students between the ages of 6 and 16 to attend school when school is in session. This law is backed up by Florida laws on truancy (Section 1003.26 of the Florida Statutes) which makes it illegal to not let your child go to school. Besides, this law is there for a very important reason: To prepare the children of our great state for the challenges of tomorrow, and the State of Florida is very serious about this.
If a student misses so many days of school within a given school year, more than likely the principal or assistant principal will ask for proof of the extended absences such as a doctor's note for an illness or injury. The principal can have a meeting with the student and/or the student's parents to address the issue.
If the unexplained absences from school continue, the principal will more than likely refer the student to the school's Child Study Team. Each school in Pinellas County has one, and the team is a group of professionals who investigate cases of students missing excessive days of school at the individual school level. This team can make a recommendation through the proper channels to refer an individual case to the State Attorney for review and possible prosecution of the parents under Florida's compulsory attendance law pursuant to Section 984.151 of the Florida Statutes. As far as the child is concerned, at the same time a petition is filed with the court to declare the child in need of services and this declaration (see Section 984.15 of the Florida Statutes) can bring about the attention of the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Once a truancy case is forwarded to the State Attorney, it is that office that reviews the facts and makes the decision whether to go forward with criminal charges against the parents for not seeing to it that their children attend school on a regular basis. Once the charges are filed a warrant is issued for the parents' arrest. If a child is declared by the courts in need of services, then Florida DCF involvement is frequent.
If you make the decision to drop out of high school
OK. You are in high school and your grades are poor despite your efforts to do better to bring your grades up. You also may be struggling to pass the Florida FCAT/FSA test (the FSA is the Florida Standards Assessment, which superseded the FCAT) and you feel you are wasting your time in FCAT/FSA remedial classes. (Hey, academically talented students do well in required classes but somehow do poor on the FCAT or the FSA!) Or, you may have other issues in school and you think the faculty and staff don't want to help you. You decide to make the ultimate decision: Drop out of high school.
WARNING: Dropping out of high school is a very serious matter; it is as serious as renouncing American citizenship abroad. The world of today - especially the world of today's shattered economy - does not treat high school dropouts kindly. Dropping out of high school can lead to extremely serious consequences such as:
Reduced earning potential: High school graduates make even a substantial amount of money than someone who dropped out of high school.
Less job opportunities: Nearly all jobs require a high school diploma. Make no mistake, potential employers do check what you put on that application. If you list the fact that you graduated when in fact you dropped out, you have made a false statement to an employer who has the right to terminate you right then and there.
Getting a GED in place of a high school diploma: Sure, the GED diploma is a high school diploma but it is a high school equivalency diploma and there is a difference. If you intend on enlisting in the United States Military the recruiter will not take a GED diploma as proof that you graduated from high school. To a potential employer or college, a GED is a red flag that an individual has been committed to a treatment or psychiatric center, served detention in a juvenile correctional facility, or a combination of the two.
Higher chance of being incarcerated: Studies show that people who dropped out of high school are more than likely to commit criminal behavior at some point down the road leading to incarceration.
Denial or suspension of a Florida Driver's License: If you miss too many days of or drop out of school, the school officials will report this to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Once this report is received then your driver's license is suspended. After all, a Florida Driver's License is a coveted ticket to freedom especially in the eyes of a 16-year-old.
Denial of admission to college: Colleges and universities require at least a high school diploma for admission. The better universities - such as the University of South Florida - also want passing ACT or SAT test scores in addition to a high school diploma.
Danger of homelessness: You don't live with your parents forever. Once you are at the age of majority - which is 18 years of age, which is the age of becoming a legal adult - your parents have the right to turn you loose. You will more than likely have upset your parents so much that they don't want any part of you when you turn 18, now that you have dropped out of high school.
Other consequences: You will more than likely have to spend a third of your day in the welfare office applying for benefits such as food stamps. You will more than likely have a difficult time finding a place to live. You will be the target of society that frowns on high school dropouts.
And the list goes on and on...
You, as a high school student, would have to report to the school office to meet with the principal or assistant principal and make an oral declaration that you want to drop out of high school. The high school principal or assistant principal will give you a Pinellas County School District form which reads, in large Times New Roman font:
STUDENT DECLARATION OF INTENT TO TERMINATE SCHOOL ENROLLMENT
You complete this form in the school office.
Hey, this form is available over at the Pinellas County School District's website, pcsb.org. But I am NOT going to make a direct link to that form nor tell you where it is (not even the form number) on the Pinellas County School District's website just to make it easy for you to drop out of high school courtesy of my website! You are in high school for an education; you must stick it out until you graduate from high school.
The form goes on to say, again in Times New Roman font:
I INTEND TO WITHDRAW FROM HIGH SCHOOL AND ACKNOWLEDGE THAT NOT COMPLETING HIGH SCHOOL (DROPPING OUT) IS LIKELY TO REDUCE MY FUTURE EARNING POTENTIAL
Did I remind you already of the consequences of dropping out of high school yet?
Your parents have to sign this form, and the school notifies your parents of your intention to drop out. It is not applicable if you have turned 18 years of age or older. It is Pinellas County School District policy that an exit interview be conducted of all students who decide to drop out of high school, and to explore alternatives to get you to back away from your decision to drop out of high school.
Once you turn in the completed form to terminate your high school enrollment and it is processed, your decision is in all aspects permanent. More than likely you will no longer be able to finish high school at the high school you dropped out of. If you decide to go for your high school diploma after all, more than likely you will be referred to a dropout prevention or adult high school program. Besides, the Pinellas County School District has strict guidelines as to how long you may be in high school and that can be viewed in the District's Student Code of Conduct.
Besides, dropping out of high school is almost like renouncing your American citizenship, as both acts have extremely serious consequences.
As I mentioned earlier it is Pinellas County School District policy that alternatives are explored to keep you from dropping out and if you decided to go forward with dropping out, that you will go through an exit interview. This is akin to sitting with the American consul at the American embassy or consulate discussing with you alternatives to talk you out of renouncing your American citizenship. Should you decide to push forward and renounce American citizenship, you are scheduled for another appointment at the American embassy and at that next appointment, you will be in a room with the American consul and in that room will be symbols of the American nation that you learned since you started learning the Pledge of Allegiance in elementary school: The American flag as well as other American patriotic memorabilia.
At that second appointment you will stand before the American consul, raise your right hand like if you were taking an oath, and swear or affirm that you are making a formal renunciation of American citizenship. By comparison, the exit interview given in your principal's office is almost reminiscent of what you would experience at the American embassy when you renounce your American citizenship, but not that formal.
If you did indeed drop out of high school
If you dropped out of high school despite your principal's or guidance counselor's recommendation not to in the first place, there is hope.
You can still get that high school diploma! That's the good news.
How you get that high school diploma depends on why you dropped out of high school:
Did you drop out of high school due to issues with the school administration (such as unfair discipline, talk of reassignment to Pinellas Secondary School in Pinellas Park, teachers who do not care about you, and more)?: You can enroll in an adult high school and the Pinellas County School District has community schools located conveniently to where you live in Pinellas County. These schools offer the classes you need to finish high school and you will be pleased to know that there is a countywide graduation ceremony held right around the time the regular school year starts.
In the adult high school you can earn either your regular high school diploma or take the tests of General Educational Development (GED) to receive your GED (that's a high school equivalency) diploma. Earning a GED is an alternative, but it has drawbacks:
1. A GED diploma sends up red flags to prospective colleges and employers. To a college admissions officer or an employer, a GED diploma could mean that you had problems during your high school years and you may have either been committed to a treatment facility or spent time in a detention center. Believe me, if a prospective college or employer sees a GED being used as a high school diploma an intensive background check will more than likely be conducted.
2. If you are thinking about enlisting in the United States Armed Forces - that's right, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard - and you have a GED diploma, for all intents and purposes forget it. Once the recruiter sees that you got a GED instead of a high school diploma you will more than likely be sent on your way.
Did you drop out of high school because you got word that you will earn a Florida Certificate of Completion instead of a high school diploma due to a failed FCAT test? There is a private high school in Maine - North Atlantic Regional High School (NARHS) - that indeed specializes in students who have fallen into this category. This school will even evaluate your high school transcript to see if you have completed requirements for a high school diploma.
If you decide to go this route you will need an official copy of your high school transcript sent to them. If you meet the requirements for graduation - which according to NARHS is 17.5 credits - you will be issued a high school diploma which will be a from a real private high school in Maine. NARHS is regionally accredited and your high school diploma will be as good as gold whether you apply to college or look for employment. And besides, you will have a real high school diploma in your hand - not a GED diploma.
After all, even if you did drop out of high school you have a transcript of your courses taken, credit earned, grades earned and GPA.
The Main Idea Here
The main idea presented in this topic is very simple: Stay in high school and graduate with your high school diploma. You will be proud of yourself - and your parents will be proud of you - when you walk that stage at your high school's graduation ceremony, your name is called, and your principal hands you your diploma. Besides, receiving that high school diploma means better opportunities and challenges are ahead.