WDAY: The News Leader

Published February 23, 2011, 03:36 AM

Students facing punishment after missing school to work on an international debate competition

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - You'd be hard pressed to find a parent who hasn't done it: Excused your son or daughter from school to go hunting, go to a sporting event or even vacation. A couple of Shanley's top students are facing punishment for missing school to work on academics. Parents and teachers knew about it, papers were signed, homework was done in advance and still the students are in trouble.

The students missed two days to work on a debate project, but not just any project. Come April, they will represent Shanley in New York City at an international debate competition, one of 8 schools in the world remaining.

TEAGAN LENDE - Punished for Missing School: "It kind of felt like the entire establishment turned their back on us. I think that was the hardest part, knowing that we had done this which wasn't only a great opportunity for us, but certainly reflects on the school."

As a junior in high school, Teagan Lende has a long, impressive resume. He's top in his class at Shanley, the first North Dakotan to be an A Caroline D. Bradley Scholar, an award given to only 15 students in the U-S, currently ranked third in the nation in forensics, and never been tardy or had detention.

"The last thing I remember is getting a yellow card in kindergarten, the last punishment I remember having."

Obviously school is Teagan's life. To beat a tight deadline for the upcoming international debate competition, Teagan and his partner spent all weekend and a Monday to submit their project.

"At Shanley they have what they call a yellow sheet. It's a sheet with all of your periods listed; notify your teachers when you're going to be gone, and you have them sign off on it. We went through that whole process."

He finished the project around 4 Tuesday morning and after 20 hours of non-stop work, Teagan's mom excused him from school that day as well.

NANCY LENDE - Teagan's Mom: "We were called into the principal’s office and Rather than getting a congratulations from administration, we were told that we were going to be punished for missing school. Our principle phrased it even that we were truant."

His punishment is school this Friday when everyone else has the day off.

"To have a student who has never been a problem, achieve something like this, and be considered truant and my contention is that these boys need a vacation more than anyone."

Teagan's mom Nancy is a teacher in Mapleton. She questioned school leaders about students missing to hunt, or fish or go on vacation. She says school leaders told her parents usually lie and if she'd done the same nothing would have been questioned.

"You know what is this telling the kids, it's better if you lie, it's better if you go against your parents and I don't know for some reason it just flabbergast me, it makes no sense.”

Shanley's principal would not comment on the subject, calling it an internal matter.