Leaving IRSD? Beware of FFA student’s conundrum

Date Published: 
Nov. 17, 20177

Future Farmers of America is an important program in Indian River School District. It produces student leaders and important skills in an agricultural county.

But scheduling can be a sticky wicket for an organization that doesn’t host national competition until the following fall. Students have to revisit their spring projects when they return to school — or after they’ve already graduated.

IRSD recently clarified that, unless a student has recently graduated from 12th grade, the district will not sponsor students in competition if they leave the district for any other reason.

Now, “students traveling as a result of competition or acceptance of an award must be an actively enrolled student or a recent (within six months) graduate within the district at the time of the trip,” according to new Policy IICA (Field Trips and Excursions).

The Board of Education wrote this policy after a sticky situation this spring. A Millsboro Middle Schooler eighth-grader was offered a place at the FFA national conference. But Taylor Bullis had transferred outside of the district to Sussex Technical High School by the time of nationals in October.

The Department of Education did not require IRSD to sponsor or chaperone her, so the school board opted not to, for liability concerns.

The district did not prohibit her from attending with her parents, but would not send a teacher or any funding. She could go, but not under IRSD’s umbrella.

Ultimately it comes down to liability.

“I never once said [she] was a discipline problem,” Superintendent Mark Steele of Bullis, a longtime FFA student leader. “The only thing that was said was … let’s just say [there is] disciplinary action. Who does she fall under? … Where does our person have any jurisdiction over her?”

Some school districts don’t even allow FFA eighth-graders to compete at state finals if they are considering transferring to Sussex Tech.

The family was broken-hearted and angry.

“My project was my best yet,” Bullis had told the board. “When I won for the state of Delaware, I was so excited, but … when my district told me I could not go … all that work went down the drain.”

She did not regret her decision to transfer out of IRSD, she said, but she keenly felt the lost opportunity of FFA nationals.