(Copyright 1999. All rights reserved.)

The Tattoo

--- Making a Permanent Impression Since 1994 ---

March 29, 1999


Dropout age could be raised

By JEN RAJOTTE
The Tattoo

Dropping out of school may get tougher soon if one
state senator gets his way.

Sen. Thomas Upson, a Waterbury Republican,
proposed a bill this year that would change the age at
which students can legally drop out from 16 to 18
years old -- a measure that would have barred Bristol's
senator from quitting high school early had it been in
place years ago.

"If they had made me stay in school until I was 18, it
probably would have been bad for me," said state Sen.
Tom Colapietro, a Terryville Democrat who represents
Bristol.

Colapietro said that when he was a kid approaching
16, he wanted to drop out and started missing school a
lot. He eventually quit going to classes entirely with
the intention of getting a job.

When the job didn't work out, Colapietro said, he
joined the armed forces and got his high school
diploma there.

No one really could have made him stay in school,
Colapietro said.

But Upson said that because teenagers are minors at
16, they still need help to follow the right track.

"When you're sixteen years old, you aren't responsible
enough to decide something with this much weight. A
teenager can't decide what is best to do with their lives
until they have reached adult hood -- 18 years of age,"
Upson said.

Alison Munn, a freshman at Bristol Eastern High
School, said that although Upson's bill would not
concern her personally, she can see the logic behind it.

"I know that the dropout rate is something that a lot of
people are worried about," she said. "But there are
going to be kids that either are going to come to class
and just goof around or are going to find ways to skip
class anyway."

"I don't see how they can keep kids in school if they
really don't want to be there," Munn said.

"People who don't want to be in school but are forced
to make it miserable for the rest of us," said Eastern
freshman Tina Michaud. "It's hard to work in that
environment."

According to Upson, the purpose of his bill is to
encourage students and parents to stress the
importance of going to class and getting an education.

"By making strict regulations and attendance policies,
the consequences of skipping school will be much
higher, and hopefully more people will take their
education more seriously," he said.

By making a law requiring children to attend school
until the age of 18, Upson said he hopes that most
families will have their kids attend school more
regularly.

"Getting an education in our society is very
important," Upson said. "Our kids need to get all that
they can from school while they still have the chance."

"Too many people regret the reckless decisions they
made when they were 16 and decided to drop out. Our
goal is to try to prevent that," he said.

Although there are many programs geared towards the
adults who want a second chance to get an education,
Upson said it is his goal to have every child get the
best education that they can -- the first time around.

Colapietro said, though, that he is "not crazy about the
idea" Upson is pushing.

He said kids will skip anyway, no matter what anyone
does. 

"Even if we make them stay in school, we can't make
them study, do their  homework or even learn," Colapietro
said. 

Upson's measure "won't accomplish anything," he said.
"This won't make them stay in school. If they really
don't want to be there, they won't go. It's that simple."



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