One of the components of No Child Left Behind on the federal level and U-PASS on the state level is attendance. Schools are expected to achieve a certain attendance standard each year or risk not making "Adequate Yearly Progress."
Since attendance guidelines were established on the state and federal levels, school districts and schools within those districts have been concerned about their own attendance rules and have been setting policy which will improve overall attendance.
In the Emery School District, the Board of Education recently approved changes in the attendance policy as it relates to the number of absences a student can have during a term without penalty.
In the past, the board allowed 10 absences of any kind (not including school-excused absences) before action was to be taken by the school administrator. In effect, that allowed students to miss up to 40 days of school each year.
At the beginning of the 2005-06 school year, administrators began a dialogue about attendance and what could be done to get more students in school more often. Ultimately, the administrators recommended to the school board that the district reduce the number of acceptable absences each term from 10 days to six days.
In the June school board meeting, the board approved the changes. Following is the wording of the policy:
"When a student is absent from school for six (6) or more days, or portions of a school day (excused or unexcused) during one (1) term, but not including school excused absences, he/she will be subject to the following procedures/conditions:
1) On the fourth (4th) absence the student's parent(s)/guardian(s) will be notified by mail or administrative phone call that their child has reached four of the six excessive absences that are allowed each quarter and asked for their assistance in improving their student's attendance.
2) On the sixth (6th) absence, the student's parent(s)/guardian(s) will be notified by certified mail or administrative phone call of the problem and of a meeting to be held to discuss the problem. Failure on the part of the parent(s)/guardian(s) to attend the meeting or to make arrangements to reschedule the meeting if necessary may result in referral of the matter to the juvenile court. This meeting may be waived if the parents have received prior approval from the school for their student's excessive absences due to extenuating circumstances.
3) In the meeting, a review of the attendance will take place and determine whether there are extenuating circumstances that have contributed to the student's absences. If the principal/designee determines that no extenuating circumstances exist the principal/designee has the option of: a) requiring all future absences during the term to be cleared by a doctor's excuse only; or b) require all future absences to be cleared by the principal/designee prior to the absence only; or c) that all future absences be cleared either by the principal/designee and by a doctor's written excuse.
4) If absences beyond the sixth (6th) absence in any one term are not cleared according to the procedure outlined by the principal/designee, such absences may be considered unexcused and will be applied to the "Truancy Prevention" policy. Also, a referral may be made to the juvenile court."
The "Excessive Absence" policy goes on to state that "the school's principal/designee shall monitor all student attendance, especially as it relates to academics, and will make contact with parent(s)/guardian(s) at any time prior to the sixth (6th) absence when it is apparent that absences are impacting the education of the student."
In addition to the "Excessive Absence" policy, students in the Emery District are also subject to the "Truancy Prevention" policy which has been written to comply with state truancy laws. That policy is as follows:
"At the beginning of each school year, a letter informing parent(s)/guardian(s) of the compulsory education law encouraging parental cooperation will be mailed or sent home with every child and shall be printed in the school handbook. A student registering in the school district during the school year shall be provided written notice explaining the compulsory education laws and encouraging parental cooperation. Students with a past history of attendance problems, as determined by the principal or designee, shall meet with parent(s)/guardian(s) and principal/designee prior to enrollment for the next school year to discuss such problems and establish strategies for avoiding future problems.
Local school administrators are designated by the Board to administer the District Truancy Prevention Policy (JEDA) and make referrals to Juvenile Court as necessary.
First unexcused absence- a school official shall counsel with the student and a written notice will be mailed to the parent(s)/guardian(s).
Second unexcused absence- a written notice shall be mailed to a parent(s)/guardian(s).
Third unexcused absence- a first truancy citation shall be mailed (certified) to the parent(s)/guardian(s) requesting parental support in securing regular attendance by the minor and notifying the parent(s)/guardian(s) that refusal to respond to the notice is a class B misdemeanor. A meeting shall be scheduled with the parent(s)/guardian(s) and the student to review the student's attendance problem, and if appropriate, discuss possible adjustments to the student's curriculum or schedule.
Fourth unexcused absence- a written notice shall be mailed to the parent(s)/guardian(s).
Fifth unexcused absence- a written notice shall be mailed to the parent(s)/guardian(s).
Sixth unexcused absence- a second truancy citation shall be mailed (certified) to the parent(s)/guardian(s). A pre-court hearing meeting will be scheduled for the parent(s)/guardian(s) and student where the attendance problem will be discussed and final alternatives will be presented prior to court referral.
Seventh unexcused absence- a written notice shall be mailed to the parent(s)/guardian(s).
Eighth unexcused absence- a third truancy citation shall be mailed (certified) to the parent(s)/guardian(s) and the student shall be referred to Juvenile Court.
Other discipline actions may be imposed by individual school policies as outlined in the individual school handbooks.
If students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), or students protected under Section 504/ADA of the Rehabilitation Act, have excessive absences and fall within the criteria of this rule, the student's IEP team, (IDEA), or school team (Section 504) shall ensure that the procedures of this rule apply consistent with State and Federal Law and Regulation.
Parent(s)/guardian(s) may appeal citations in the following mannter:
Within five (5) school days of receipt of a citation, parent(s)/guardian(s) may appeal a truancy citation by submitting a written appeal, clearly outlining the reason for the appeal and the desired outcome to the school appeals committee. The elementary school appleals committee shall consist of two parents and two teachers. The secondary school appeals committee shall consist of a parent, a member of the student council and two teachers. The appeals committee shall render a written decision within ten (10) school days from the date the appeal was filed."
Regarding attendance, Canyon View Junior High School Principal Larry Davis said, "Students and parents need to know a number of rules, policies and laws regarding attendance at their schools. Because much of the funding for public schools is based on attendance, and because it is important that students are in school as much as possible to learn essential skills, attendance laws are very specific."
At most schools, parents and guardians are required to notify the school when their child is going to be absent. Notification should take place prior to the absence but at least on the day of the absence.
When a parent/guardian checks a student out of school, the necessary forms in the office need to be filled out. This is true also when a parent/guardian checks a student back into school. Parents may contact the school to excuse a child by phone call as well.
Sluffs are also a serious matter and not only are handled as unexcused absences, but also carry heavy school penalties.
Tardies too are a matter of attendance and typically are dealt with through each school's tardy and citizenship policies.