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Massachusetts Students Would Rather Flunk Than Dunk

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About 20 percent of the juniors and seniors at Milford High School in Massachusetts recently opted to bunk and flunk rather than dunk to protest a situation they thought was all wet: the lack of blow-dryers in the locker rooms.

The 187 girls and 93 boys who chose to sit out a required 45-minute swimming class told school officials that without dryers and an adequate amount of time to prepare for other classes, the requirement was not realistic, according to Thomas Cimino, superintendent of the district.

"They basically didn't think they looked good enough to go to the next class," Mr. Cimino said.

Milford students are required to take three and a half weeks of swimming instruction in the nine-week winter marking period. The grade they receive for that period is averaged with three others for their year-end mark.

The students are not required to pass physical education in order to graduate--they must simply take the course.

The students swim in a newly renovated pool that opened in January. After their dips, they have 10 minutes to get ready for their next classes.

"I'm a person with very long and thick hair," said Michelle Belisle, a 16-year-old junior who failed the course. "With 10 minutes to change, you had to take a shower, get dressed, I had to put my contacts in, and I had no time to dry my hair at all. I ended up catching a cold. I got sick and ended up having to stay out of school for a few days."

Besides, Michelle said, she and a number of other students "weren't learning anything really necessary" in the class. "We were blowing bubbles and stuff like that. They were more or less teaching you to swim all over again. Most of the kids already knew how to swim."

"We're an ocean state," the superintendent countered. "If we have a swimming pool, we certainly should require the youngsters to take this unit." As a result of the student "sit-out," Mr. Cimino said he plans to ask the school board to make passing the course a graduation requirement.

Meanwhile, the controversy is likely to blow over fairly soon. Hair dryers for the girls' and boys' locker rooms that have been on order since October are expected to arrive this summer.

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