Members of Portland’s School Board said Tuesday that they support backing off a proposal to require every high school student to apply to college, a vocational or technical program or the military to get a diploma.

Instead, they said, they are interested in broadening the proposed graduation policy to require students to develop post-graduation plans that could include options such as applying for a job, working or traveling.

“I know from talking to students that there are some that know they are going to college, and there are a lot of students who might go into the military or into a trade or just go to work,” said Mohamed Nur, a student board member from Deering High School, who proposed the change. “As long they have a concrete plan of what they want to do following high school.”

The board discussed the policy Tuesday after a public hearing on the proposed requirements. It did not take a formal vote, but asked the staff to draw up alternative language for it to consider June 24, when the board will vote on the policy.

A half-dozen people spoke at the public hearing. Most opposed the application provision.

Melissa Luetje, a high school teacher in York County, said she doesn’t think students know what they want to do as high school seniors.

“We expect 18-year-olds to be instant adults when they graduate, and nothing can be further from the truth,” Luetje said.

Donna Williams questioned the district’s emphasis on all students going to college.

“The overwhelming message to students from day one is that it’s important for you to go to college,” she said, noting that her son did not graduate from college. “My son is very defensive about it, in large part because he thinks he didn’t do this thing he was supposed to do.”

At the workshop, all of the board members said they were swayed by the debate to broaden the diploma requirement.

David Galin, the school district’s chief academic officer, said the district’s intent is to prepare students for college and careers, “not force students” into any particular option.

“I really appreciate the intent behind it,” said board member Anna Trevorrow. “But I share a lot of the concerns raised by the public comment tonight.”

“For me, it’s just overly prescriptive,” said board member Justin Costa.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

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