On Jan. 26, the SDUHSD sent an email to all parents about the updated attendance policy, available on the district website, in order to clarify common misconceptions regarding absences at school.
In the new version, two significant changes regarding unexcused absences have been recommunicated to ensure for widespread compliance and a change was made to policy on leaving campus because of an illness.
One clarification made by the SDUHSD is that verified absences and excused absences are considered different in the attendance record. Unless a student is absent because of mandatory attendance in a court case, a doctor’s appointment or an illness, the absence is unexcused, no matter the reason. All other causes for missing school are considered personal absences, which allows teachers the discretion to allow make-up work or not. On the other hand, students can call in two days prior to their absences for verification to notify their teachers beforehand that they will not be in school.
“One of the things that caused confusion were college visits,” TPHS Principal Rob Coppo said. “I would have to tell parents that a college visit is not technically an excused absence. People would look at me as if I was crazy, and it is that way because it is a personal excuse. If you have a personal excuse, your teachers, at their discretion, choose what you can make up.”
Even some school-related activities, such as competitions for clubs and sports, can lead to unexcused absences. Although the student’s obligation to a tournament is clear to the district and administration, it does not fall into one of the three categories for excused absence.
“I believe that for competitions, individuals should notify the attendance office beforehand. Anyone going to a competition knows when it is, so I feel that if someone fails to provide notice, they are deserving of an unexcused absence,” Farzaan Kaiyom (12) said. “If notice is provided, however, I do believe that students do not deserve unexcused absences, especially for academic activities. I believe there is a limit for personal absences, and I think that it should be expanded for students with frequent competitions.”
In addition to excusing absences, the updated policy makes clear the procedure for leaving school during school hours from illness. Students are required to check in with the health office before leaving campus because of two reasons. The first is so that, in case of emergency, the school can track the student’s location or status more easily. The other purpose of checking in with the health office beforehand is to consult with students who may have serious health issues and provide whatever help is needed to them.
Excessive absences that can be avoided prove to negatively affect the school and the students. The school, which is funded through ADA, Average Daily Attendance, receives more funding when the annual average attendance is higher. Also, students who miss an excessive number of days risk not fulfilling the required number of hours needed to graduate high school.
“I think they made the rules harder because you can easily call yourself out of class,” Jiwoo Kim (10) said. “They are more concerned about attendance since if we don’t have enough hours we won’t be able to graduate.”
According to Coppo, attendance is gradually becoming a concern in all high schools throughout the county, as students begin to have more flexibility in their schedule. When Coppo was a student at TPHS, students had few excuses to miss school; however, TPHS, over time, has developed an increasingly competitive atmosphere, with students who are in college courses and national competitions.
Hoping that students take school more seriously, Coppo believes the school board developed a new attendance policy in order to clarify the requirements and expectations for the student body.