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Attendance policy here makes no sense

December 10, 2005|By Jeffrey Rogers

To the editor:

I am the parent of a South Hagerstown High School student. I am writing to you regarding the illogical and inefficient enforcement of the attendance policy of Washington County. The implementation and enforcement of this policy make no sense.

I understand that the State of Maryland requires each county Board of Education monitor attendance and implement a policy to enforce a state requirement that limits student absences to six days per marking period and 12 days total.

The way this policy is enforced by Washington County is illogical and, in my opinion, a bit over the top. If a student is missing more than six days in a marking period and has bad grades, then the threat to refuse credit for lack of attendance has no meaning. The net effect is punishment of good students who care about school, even though they may not fit the mindless requirements of this attendance policy.

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This indicates to me that there is another reason for this method of policy enforcement. Attendance affects funding levels. This is about money and not the welfare of a student.

If a student is missing more than the allowed days or has an absence rate that might indicate that they will miss more than the allowed days, then forcing them to sign a contract is not the best way to handle this problem. The way this is worded, it comes across as a legal and binding contract.

My child is to accept punishment if they are absent more than the 6 1/2 days. This "contract" threatens to remove my child's school credits and I am forced to sign this contract.

I am not a lawyer but ask your legal counsel if signing an,y contract under duress means it is a valid contract. This contract approach needs to go.

Policy enforcement is triggered via a mindless number (6 1/2) value without any context regarding the student in question. There seems to be no attempt to check if a child is an overall good student.

There is no attempt to check whether a note was supplied by the parent to explain each absence. There is only this knee-jerk reaction to the number of days missed. If a student's absence rate is above board policy, then at some point my word is not good enough. I have to get a doctor's note.

It is my understanding that the need for me to supply a doctor's note after so many days of absence is a Washington County interpretation of state policy. The state considers a note written by the parent to be an excused absence.

I make this assertion based on the fact that other county school systems (i.e. Frederick County) do not require a doctor's note and do accept a parent's note for all absences. Requiring a doctor's excuse for an absence is an unnecessary and forced expense that I object to and that some parents may not be able to cover. This implies that only those with health insurance or money can comply with this discriminatory policy.

I understand that some sort of attendance policy is required and that parents need to show some indication that they are aware of these absences. Most responsible and caring parents will be aware of these absences and ensure that there are consequences for any unauthorized absences.

If a parent doesn't care about their child's education for whatever reason, then the board's approach to enforcing the state's attendance policy isn't going to change anything. All it does is serve to harass and threaten families that really do care about their children's education.

For the above reasons, I would like to see the enforcement of the state's attendance policy changed. Please let me know how I can address my concerns to the Washington County Board of Education, as I firmly believe there is an issue with the county's attendance enforcement policies.

I look forward to a response to my concerns.

Jeffrey Rogers
Hagerstown

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