Two Students’ Views on School Attendance Policy

Two Students' Views on School Attendance Policy

Alexander Ryan and Lizbeth Gurrola

It is no secret that students are put under immense pressure to be at school at all times, regardless of the consequences. The Washoe County School District is no exception; in fact, the new attendance policy put into place by WCSD is even stricter than before. This unwillingness to allow for absence can be extremely detrimental to the health of students.

Under WCSD’s new attendance policy, students are required to be present for 90 percent of classes in order to pass a grade. This leaves 9 days a semester that students are able to miss school, for any reason. Students are allowed five circumstance absences a semester, or ten throughout the year, that do not count against this 90 percent. Absences that fit under this category include medical, family business, bereavement (i.e. the death of a loved one), prearranged, legal, personal business, and emergency related absences. Absences that do not include staying home to care for siblings, not feeling like coming to school, excessive transportation issues (for which no gauge of the “excessiveness” is provided), and sleeping in. 

While the majority of these are completely logical, they do not provide students the ability to miss days for reasons arguably equally problematic to those above. A student who suffers from clinical depression may have days where they are unable to function properly at school. Depression is a serious mental illness, but schools are arguably likely to clump absences related to depressive symptoms together with “not wanting to come to school.”

Additionally, students who are affected by illnesses, whether contagious or not, lasting more than 5 days risk cutting into the ten percent of classes they are able to safely miss. A student afflicted by the flu should, in theory, already miss the entirety of their “safe” absences. I hypothesize that many students are unwilling to do this and thus go to school while still being contagious. By preventing their body from properly and effectively healing they are putting other students at risk of catching and spreading the flu. This is particularly problematic considering there are multiple flu seasons within one semester of school, meaning students may very well miss upwards of 10 days a semester from this alone. 

This does not account for singular classes, either. A student may have regularly scheduled medical appointments at a specific time of day causing them to repeatedly miss a class. In many cases these are unavoidable or nonnegotiable, as doctor’s offices tend to have tight schedules and not be able to work around the lives of patients. If a student has 5 appointments in a semester (which is not unlikely, particularly if they have follow up appointments), they will very quickly exhaust their safe absences. If a student suffers from a psychological disorder, this occurrence is still more likely. Combined with the vehement dismissing of days missed without illness, this proves extremely harmful for said students. 

Even in spite of the provisions made by the attendance policy, which should be sufficient in most cases, students are still put under an immense amount of pressure to be at school every day. Speaking from personal experience, missing school is not at all conducive to improved mental health; if anything, the stress of school and schoolwork grows. 

By no means am I downplaying the importance of education. Rather, I believe that the attendance policy as it stands may be harmful for students’ education. In many cases, students are largely left to fend for themselves when it comes to make-up work and otherwise making up for time missed due to illness or otherwise. This may also factor in to the unhealthy attendance obsession. 

Ideally, students would be offered both the ability to miss class if needed, and provisions to make up for lost time. A student should not go to school sick nor be expected to go to school sick solely out of fear of being held back. If student learning is the priority, it would logically make sense to give students the tools to make up for lost time through things like tutoring or other methods of extra help from teachers rather than pressure them to show up every day and risk missing valuable instructional material. Of course, this decision is up to both students and teachers, but I should hope that both parties would be willing to sacrifice free time to teach and to learn what they need.

-Alexander Ryan, Staff Writer

 

The Washoe County school district (WSCD) has new attendance procedures for the 2019-20 school year to ensure that every student can promote to the next grade level and succeed in school. The new policy states that minimum attendance is required for a student’s promotion to the next grade level and students will either be marked as “present” or “absent” every school day. The reason for a student’s absence will no longer be considered and will count against a student’s chronic absenteeism.

Chronic absenteeism is when a student misses 10% or more of school days or has reached the school’s “trigger number”, for any reason. Missing more than 10% can lead to students lacking the ability to read at grade level, preform academically, and graduate on time. This has also led to higher dropout rates in high schools. Students will have the chance to make up any work they missed over the days they missed, but it will still count against the student’s chronic absenteeism and can lead to possible retention or failure.

Each high school has their own “trigger number”, trigger numbers are the number of classes a student can miss and still pass, Hug High’s trigger numbers are 4,6, and 9. Students fail a course(class) once they miss 9 days, with classes meeting up five times a week. If a student is marked absent and enters the class at any time, the teacher must change the student’s ‘absence’ to ‘tardy’.

So, the district has come up with a new policy in which students can’t miss more than 10% of school days. No big deal, right? The district has listed a few examples on their website of why students may miss school, which includes family related or personal reasons. The list includes reasons such as death in the family, illness in the family, home loss or quarantined, change of houses due to foster care, military deployment of a family member, and smaller reasons such as oversleeping or missing the school bus. If a student were to miss school due to any of these reasons it would count against a student’s chronic absenteeism. However, some students think that the school district should be more considerate.

Students here at Hug think that some of the reasons on the list for a student’s absence should be understandable. “I think if a student were to come to school after someone in their family just died, they wouldn’t be able to focus on their work. They’re probably feeling really upset and maybe angry too.” One student said, “They shouldn’t be forced to come, and the school should understand what they might be going through.” He added.

Another student said, “I feel like I wouldn’t be in the mood to do anything. Maybe some students would even feel depressed after a family member is sick or died. I hope a student here doesn’t have to go through that sort of thing.” She also added that it does make sense as to why it would count against a student’s absence. “If a student misses a lot of days of school then they would miss a lot of important things they need to know to go onto the next grade. I understand they might hold the student back, but it shouldn’t make the student feel like it’s their fault, things happen that they can’t control.”

If a student misses more than 10% and believes that there is a valid reason for an attendance appeal, they can request for an appeal from the school’s administrators. Attendance appeals are only available in middle and high schools.