Student Congress tackles civics requirement in high school

Rick Wagner • Mar 27, 2018 at 2:15 PM

MURFREESBORO — Should passing a civics exam be required to graduate from high school in Tennessee?

A group of high-schoolers at an annual statewide exercise overwhelmingly said yes, taking a stand on one of four current issues the roughly 350 students addressed in a poll and splitting into groups and debating the pros and cons. State law requires students take a civics exam, modeled after one that foreigners must take to be naturalized, but does not require passage or a minimum score.

Eight Sullivan County Schools students joined their high school peers in Murfreesboro March 6 to express their views on public education in Tennessee at the Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA) Student Congress on Policies in Education (SCOPE). The event took place on the Middle Tennessee State University campus. Among Kingsport City Schools representatives, one was elected first vice-president for next year.


Participating from Sullivan County were Clay Moody and Sadie King of Central; DeShaun Hill and Rebekah Skaggs of East; Laken Mooney and  Joe Cox from North; and Clara Roller and Dom Coughlin of South. Bo Shadden, supervisor of high school curriculum, chaperoned the students as he has in past years.

In its 36th year, SCOPE is designed to give students a voice about education issues and to involve young people in finding solutions to the topics discussed. Attendees participated in mock school board sessions, where they assumed the roles of school board members, school officials, parents, students and concerned citizens. The sessions were led by actual school board members, superintendents and educational leaders from across the state.

Students then chose speakers to represent each of their 16 small groups who went on to take part in full-scale debates on contemporary education issues. This year’s four debate topics and results from the poll were:

1. Student information shall be shared without parent permission. (Agree: 53 percent, disagree: 47 percent)

2. Corporal punishment shall be banned from all schools. (Agree: 47 percent, disagree: 53 percent)

3. All students shall pass a civics exam to graduate (Agree: 69 percent, disagree: 31 percent)

4. Cyberbullying shall be a zero-tolerance offense. (Agree: 17 percent, disagree: 83 percent)

Delegates elected 2019 SCOPE officers are:

• President: Emily Morgan, Maryville High School

• First Vice-President: Kevin Loo, Dobyns-Bennett High School

• Second Vice-President: Abhi Manda, Central Magnet School, Rutherford County

The TSBA was organized in 1939 to provide a united voice in education for local public school boards. In 1953, the General Assembly recognized the TSBA as the “organization and representative agency of the members of school boards in Tennessee.”

TSBA is a service organization to all the state’s school boards. It serves as an advocate for the interests of Tennessee’s public school students and school districts and provides in-service training and assistance for the state’s 945 board of education members.

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