According to Google, to be truant means: “A student who stays away from school without leave or explanation.”
Without leave or explanation. That’s interesting….
This school year, my 2nd grader has missed 7.25 days of school. He has been sick twice, and with a high fever there was absolutely no way he could attend class. In fact, one of those mornings he had no fever, so I felt it was safe to send him to school. A few hours later, I was contacted by the school nurse, and she requested I pick him up. His fever had skyrocketed again. (This must be the .25) My son has a habit of catching some nasty virus just as school starts up, which makes perfect sense. All those germs in an enclosed area. Duh, right? He always gets sick again during the winter months. It’s just the way it is. This school year though, the virus that hooked it’s claws into my boy shortly after school began caused a horrendously high fever, in the 104 range. That freaked me out. We paid a visit to the doctor, who quickly informed us that it was indeed a virus, it was going around, blah blah blah. There was nothing to do but wait it out, and we did. After roughly 4 days, the fever was gone.
The second time he got sick, he had a fever. It’s a typical pattern for him, and I truly hate it, but what can be done? He’s been that way since he was a tiny lad. The school won’t allow anyone with a temperature higher than 100.5, and for good reason. Who wants a contagious kid getting everyone else sick?
I received an e-mail from his teacher. I don’t think she cares much for me, but that’s another story. This e-mail informed me that my son had been absent 7.25 days the entire school year, to date. It didn’t matter if the absences were excused absences. So, I guess those phone calls I made every morning, as well as the letters I sent to school with him were a moot point? Even doctor appointments counted against the 20 allotted days a child has before the authorities are contacted. 7.25 days is no where near 20 days, yet I was contacted anyway. She signed the e-mail with something akin to, “have a nice day!”. A smiley face would have completed the look.
I was annoyed. A good friend of mine had told me about her own woes with the truancy laws. Her daughter had missed an awful lot of school due to illness and chronic ear issues/surgery. I’m not sure if she hit the 20 day absence mark, but I believe she was contacted about it. At the time, I felt badly for her, and the situation. It wasn’t as though she was purposely trying to keep her child out of school. Let’s be honest here. Who does that? Who wants to have their kids hanging around all day? I mean, I love my kid, don’t get me wrong. He’s fantastic, but if I had the choice between him getting an education in school for 7 hours a day, or to hear, “What can I do now? I’m bored” 50 times a day, you see what the most logical choice would be, right?
Next came the letter, signed by the school principal. This letter indicated that after 5, 10, and 15 absences, the parents must be notified. At 20 absences, the authorities are alerted. The first paragraph states: “I am concerned that your child has been absent from school (5) five or more days this year.” The second paragraph informs me on the importance of daily attendance, and that consistent expectations for school be a top priority. Well, I wonder if that’s why I requested all of my son’s homework so he could do it from home, and wouldn’t fall behind. I won’t even allow my son to play after school until his homework is done. I volunteer and I also dig into my pockets to support his school. I would say school is #1 around my home, but hey.
Also, if a child arrives late or leaves for appointments, it is all counted against your child’s attendance. My son has been tardy before. Does this count? Even if it’s by a few minutes? I’ve pulled him out of school half an hour before school ends to take him to a dental appointment. That counts, too?
Next came the pamphlet, just in case I didn’t quite have the gist of everything and needed tips on how to be a better parent when it came to truancy laws. I threw that away in the garbage. I’m no perfect parent, but I’d say I certainly try my best.
Look, I get what these laws are for. Hell, these laws were created because of idiots like me! I can’t tell you how many times I skipped classes when I was in high school. My unsuspecting father would drop me off at the front entrance to my school, and I’d gather my friends up and leave at the back end. Karma, maybe? I just think there may be a better way to handle this, so the parents aren’t treated like potential criminals. I know that it’s not easy to know who is being honest, versus who is keeping their children out of school just to keep them out of school. Any boob can write an excuse note, saying their child is (COUGH, COUGH) super sick, only to spend a day at the zoo or something. And how would the school even know? If a parent keeps the child out of school for vacation, what is the view on that? What if a child has perfect attendance, yet a parent decides to let the child have a day of fun as a reward for all their hard work? Do they lie to the school? Going a step further, what happens after the feared 20 days? Do parents need to prove their child was ill or has some pre-existing condition which has prohibited them from having perfect attendance? How would you even prove such a thing? By the excuse notes written to the school? (See the sentence above re: “any boob”). Would a doctor’s note suffice? I had my son’s doctor provide a note when he was very ill. I have a feeling it was a wasted piece of paper.
Will any of this matter, considering that everyone is lumped into the same category?
Really, I don’t know why this bothers me as much as it does. I guess it’s because I feel my son is getting penalized for something he had no control over. He never chose to get ill, and I never chose that for him. We followed school policy by sending notes, making the phone calls, and I went a step further by getting doctor’s notes as well as asking for his homework (and trust me, watching him nearly cry at the thought of having to do homework while he felt that lousy made ME feel lousy). I feel there has to be a better way to monitor the absences. Maybe take the doctor’s notes into consideration, or chill out a bit when it comes to a child leaving 30 minutes before school lets up for a dental appointment. I don’t know exactly how, but I can only imagine how rough this might get for a family when a child has a chronic condition and will miss school frequently. There just has to be a better way here.