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Excess absences near administrative limit

By Ben Binner
posted April 18, 2011

Right around this time every year in the middle of fourth quarter, many students and their parents receive letters in the mail regarding their school attendance records. For most students, the number remains insignificant, as most are not entirely aware of the restrictions on their days off. Each year, students are allowed 10 days away from school without a medical excuse. However, with the end of the school year approaching, some students are getting dangerously close to this limit.

“We think that it’s really important that kids come to school and people throughout the state think it’s important for kids to stay in school,” said Assistant Principal Matthew Zimmerman. “So, state laws are written that have compulsory school attendance. All that’s saying all kids need to be in school up until the time they’re 18.”

Being truant, or habitually truant for that matter, occurs when a student skipped school without any reasonable excuse or without being called in by their parents. However, even if a student is excused from school by their parents, they can, under certain circumstances, still violate the compulsory school attendance law.

“Up until the eleventh day, your parents can call you in for whatever reason they want,” said Zimmermann. “You go out to a Monday night football game and you just don’t feel well enough to come to school the next day and your parents call you in, no problem. But, the second you hit you hit that 10 day mark, I can no longer excuse you unless you have a legitimate medical excuse.”

With the end of the school year approaching, Zimmermann wanted to remind students that consistent misses are against school policy.

“What’s starting to happen is we’ve got students who are running into that ten day mark and you can imagine that sometimes parents and students aren’t real understanding of the fact that they need to see a doctor in order to be excused,” he said. “However, what we’re doing is trying to follow board policy which has its basis in state law.”

So when a student misses school unexcused for any reason, they are considered truant, whether that’s for one hour or all seven hours they’re considered truant from school. Then, at that point they can be subject to a truancy ticket, suspension time, and detentions that they are automatically going to accumulate here at school. Now, once they have five days with one or more periods of unexcused absences, they’re now considered habitually truant.

At that point we need to write a letter to their parents to let them know they’re son/daughter is habitually truant and we need to have a meeting with the parents and say that this is what’s going to happen: if you skip school again you’re probably going to get a truancy ticket and if you skip again after that we’re probably going to refer you to supervision. There are certain students that get supervision because they just can’t get themselves to school.”

“Along with what I said before, there’s also a board policy out right now that says you get ten days for excused absences for any reason,” Zimmerman explained.

I just want students to know that this is why they might be getting letters and we’re out to get them or anything but just that we’re trying uphold our district’s policy and state law.”

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