To the editor,
Splitting Hairs: The Right or Privilege to Admit and to Attend Elkin City Schools
A right is a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way. Thomas Jefferson asserted that we were all created equal and at least endowed by our Creator with the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. A privilege is a special advantage or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people. If one is of age, a bona fide resident, can demonstrate an appropriate skill level, can show proof of liability insurance, and can pay the necessary fees he can then be privileged with a North Carolina driver’s license. A dictionary would consider these two nouns to be synonyms but in a legal sense the second is more like a red-headed step-child to the first. Legally, a privilege is more easily erased than a right. Is admission to Elkin City Schools by a student who lives out of district a right or a privilege? Is attendance at Elkin City Schools by a student who lives outside the school district a right or a privilege?
I began teaching at Elkin High School in 1988. At this point in time Elkin City Schools were free to all who wished to be admitted to and to attend them. Considering the fact that the parents of out of district students paid no supplementary tax to support the schools, the presence of these students within the system was clearly a privilege. These students were enjoying a special advantage provided to them by small school system that saw the advantage of the diversity that out of district students could bring. I do not remember at any time during this period of obvious privilege the differential treatment of out of district and in district students with regard to academic and behavioral standards.
The first ECS Discretionary Admission Policy, to my recollection, was imposed on out of district students in 1993. The current policy was adopted in 2000. Elkin does not have to admit an out of district student who applies to attend this system. I would agree with the current interpretation that admission to Elkin City Schools for an out of district student is a privilege and not a right. EHS, EMS and EES can therefore admit or deny admission to out of district students as they see fit if admission is viewed as a privilege.
Admission and attendance are two different animals. Admission is a privilege but once acts upon this invitation with attendance, this action becomes a right. The former may be seen as the ticket to enter the theater while the later may be regarded as claiming a seat. Once the cinema enthusiast purchases his ticket and sits down in the theater to watch a film he has a right to enjoy what he has paid for. Similarly, an out of district student who has been admitted to Elkin City Schools and chooses to attend, has the right to expect the educational services which state funding and tuition payments ensure.
No right or privilege is absolutely protected by law. Both can be revoked if the revocation is sufficiently justified. Such revocation must follow due process and equal protection of laws that are intended to protect individual rights. If an Elkin resident stood up and yelled “Fire” in a crowded movie theater across the Yadkin River, he would and should be removed. The same fate would and should befall a Jonesville native who does the same thing. Could we please stop splitting hairs and do the right thing?