Friday, May 04, 2012

Seattle Schools' Attendance Policies

I have heard from a few parents who are confused over SPS attendance policies, particularly around excused absences.   This has been discussed here before but here's the link to the Truancy Office.  It is headed by Ruth McFadden, Program Manager.

On excused absences, this is pretty much the bottom line:

In general, family vacations of any duration may not be considered excused absences. The school principal has the final say on whether your planned absence, including family vacations or return to visit family in another country, will be excused.

It is a very good idea for the PTA and/or parent to make sure they know at the beginning of the school year what your principal's policy is going to be.  The principal should put this information out but if not, ASK.   And, get it in writing. 

I still think it a bad idea to give this over to principals because I'm sure the tolerance level may vary from school to school and that's neither consistent nor fair. 


Anonymous said...

Principals are monetarily incentivized to keep your kid in school for whatever reason.


Anonymous said...

And what's the big deal if your kid's absence is "unexcused". What are they going to do? Call the police? There's nothing they can really do.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Reader, read the links. Yes, there are things they can do. Whether they do them, again, is probably up to the principal.

I can't blame the district. They lose money when kids are not in school. Kids do need to be in school to keep up with the work. No fault in that.

basically said...

I may be off here, but it is against the law, after a certain point of many absences. It's truancy, even if it is parent sanctioned, I think. Isn't that what the Becca Bill is for?

Also, in upper grades, you cannot make up work or tests missed due to an unexcused absence, which is a big deal.

basically said...

Just lifted this off the OSPI site:

Washington state's truancy law, known as the Becca Bill, requires the school/district and the juvenile court to take specific actions when youth are truant.

School/District Requirements

After one unexcused absence in a month, the school is required to inform the parent in writing or by phone.
After two unexcused absences, the school is required to initiate a parent conference to improve the student's attendance.
After five unexcused absences in a month, the parent and school must enter a contract to improve the student's attendance. Or, the case can be referred to a Community Truancy Board.
After seven unexcused absences in a month, or ten unexcused absences in an academic year, the school district may file truancy petitions with the juvenile court.
If the student is not in compliance with a court order resulting from a tuition petition, the school is required to file a contempt motion.

dj said...

I thought that when the Board was considering new attendance policies that made family trips unexcused that they specifically said that educational trips would be excused? I am confused.

RosieReader said...

I disagree that it's unfair to vary it by school. Heck, I think it's completely appropriate to vary it by student. Students who are doing poorly should not be pulled out of class for long periods of time. For students who are at or beyond their classmates, it may be appropriate. It's probably more likely to be appropriate in younger grades. And it's only appropriate if it can be done without imposing a huge burden on the educators.

Anyway, that's the way I see it.

Anonymous said...

So, in other words, it is the policy of the school district that parents should lie. Rather than dealing with vacations in a sane manner, a parent is incented to not tell the school in advance and then call in sick the morning they depart.

Come on - there are reasons parents take trips during the school year, whether because different schools/districts/colleges don't all have the same vacation schedule or work reasons or whatever. A kid who takes one week-long trip during the year isn't "truant" as any reasonable person would understand the term, but since the whole week is in a single month, that's enough to get referred to a Community Truancy Board. Which is ridiculous.

- two district parent.

Jan said...

I agree with two district parent. I concede Rosie's point that it can be hard on educators -- but come on. We live in a digital world, full of scanners and copiers. I have no problem making the parents responsible for hunting down notes, getting copies of stuff, making sure work gets turned in and tests/quizzes are made up. But frankly, most stuff should be on the Source, and virtually all these things can be, and are, done regularly when kids leave for various excused reasons -- including week long trips to jazz festivals, athletic events, field trips, etc.

I also don't agree with Rosie that whether a trip is "allowed" by the school should depend on a child's grades. There are plenty of smart kids whose grades are not great, but those grades aren't going to be any better or worse if they go with their family on a vacation because the OTHER district/school a sibling is in has a different schedule. Similarly, if a child is struggling -- a few days of one on one time with a parent doing school work while on vacation may be every bit as good as, if not better than, the in-class time would have been. The ONLY exception to this rule I can think of is lab science classes (which cannot be made up ealily), and musical performance classes (where participation can be critical right before a performance).

School districts utterly and totally discount and devalue family resources, family time, family health (making kids catch buses at 6 a.m., refusing to provide adequate time/space for physical activity, etc., and piling on homework that keeps kids up until midnight in high school).

And then they turn around and tell families that they may have no ability whatsoever to spend any vacation time together (depending on parent schedules, which may not allow for breaks when schools are out -- or have siblings on different schedules, or relatives who die or get married at inconvenient times, etc.) -- or that (now that they have paid for kindergarten, bought supplies, contributed to auctions and PTAs, and maybe paid for their own bus transportation -- along with after school tutoring in math, athletic fees etc. etc. -- now they can also pay premium prices to try to squeeze some family life in during the highest price times for travel (when schools are on break). And then they hold their hands out for a billion dollar capital levy (on top of the operating levies, the BTA levy, and the City levy). Right.

Anonymous said...

In studies in Minnesota, later school start times showed improved attendance, decrease in tardiness and increase in continuous enrollment.

see study here

Evidently the district doesn't take attendance too seriously when they make a decision that affects it, like moving school start times earlier.

-High school parent

Anonymous said...

Well, you can home school 'em. That recognizes a parent's authority to control their kids' education. You can home school them for one class or any part of the curriculum.

Maybe the parent does a great job, maybe not, but they have the right to do it.

If I take my kids out of school for a 3-week trip to a far away country, we aren't going to be in spas. We'd be learning the history, art and culture of that country, maybe doing a service project, and doing math on the side. Maybe writing a blog.

Take me to court, and let me show you what my kids did.

Seriously, my kids are only in elementary, but they don't get nearly as much in 3 weeks at school as they would get from 3-weeks in another culture with a very interested and adventurous mom and dad.

my kids' most important teacher

Po3 said...

Just email them in sick and then tell them to cough a couple of times upon return.

Anonymous said...

We took our daughter to Hawaii when she was 8. We went to Volcano National Park and hiked across a dormant volcano and through lava tubes. We even saw the elusive néné! We snorkeled in Kona and swam with sea turtles and saw numerous fish.. I had her keep a journal of the trip. and we read many books on volcanoes and Pele. I don't see how she would have been better off missing this grand experience (my parents took us). Now if it had been Disneyworld et al. that might have been a different story.

Solvay Girl

Anonymous said...

There is a form (Educational Trip Plan) that you can request from your principal prior to taking a family trip. You describe on the form how your child will make up missed work, and how the trip would be educational. The principal has to approve the trip plan for the absence to be excused.

North End Mom

Jan said...

Solvay Girl and my kids' most important teacher --

I totally agree with both of you.

Anonymous said...

This is a big issue for seniors who are auditioning for college music or theatre programs. It is very difficult to fly to the east coast for a weekend audition without missing at least one or two days of school. When you figure that performing arts students need 6-8 auditions to have a few good options, the time adds up. The teachers tell the kids to lie and say they are sick because it is too hard to have so many unexcused absences. So parents are put in the no-win situation of condoning a lie or creating an incredibly stressful time for their child when they want(and need) him or her to be at their best for auditions. There needs to be some flexibility.


Anonymous said...

On just Jennifer's point, we had to "give up," and explain that while we had never lied for our child before, never written the "sick" note when they begged for a "mental health" day, never covered for them if they were tardy -- we were making a huge exception. In our case, it was a child on a "team" in a sport that was not a school sport. So -- while the football guys, swimmers, soccer players, drum line kids, etc, all got excused absences to attend meets, my child could not. We explained that, in our opinion, the school was flat out wrong in its policy, to the detriment of the kids, and we were not willing to support such a rigid approach -- and for that reason ONLY (athletic races), we would agree with the teachers (who all knew what the absence was for, and were fine with it) and just sign "sick" notes.

--stupid laws breed disregard for authority.

Melissa Westbrook said...

It is interesting that in terms of the transportation issue and the attendance issue, the district (and schools) are happy to release athletes for games, etc.