Moderator Pick Parent/Guardian
June 2nd, 2020

Give schools attendance credit for family activities

I've been on the local control accountability plan team as a parent for over four years now, and I've observed how the funding structure for schools and districts works against encouraging family-based activities. Children who miss a day or two of school because a family has an activity or obligation that strengthens the family -- and sometimes the child's education -- are penalized and sent threatening letters about unexcused absences, with words thrown around like truancy.

Need an extra day for an overnight trip to see grandparents? Unexcused. Want to experience a museum on a non-weekend? Unexcused. Have a family member detained or incarcerated and the visiting hours require either travel or visits during part of a school day? Unexcused.

These are legitimate reasons to be out of the classroom for social-emotional reasons, yet there is no explanation of these activities in the accounting and funding structure for schools. Heck, under the law there's no time allowed if a parent or grandparent is dying to visit and spend time -- the only time allowed is for the funeral, and only a day! There is an exception for military members, but there are so many other situations where these absences should be excused with contingency plans to make up work.

I think of the child-parent bond for those who are incarcerated ... these family bonds are cited as top priority for the parent and child alike to break the cycle. Yet our education system works directly against these efforts through no-excuse attendance rules. These unexcused absences that stack up (and it doesn't take much) turn into stats that negatively impact the Family and Community Engagement accountability data set on the Dashboard. Hence the borderline threatening letters to families.

The proposal: Please create a method to have a certain number of "excused for family activity" days in a school year that focuses on the family. In some families it will be academic, like museum trips or family-based activities. For others, it will be social/emotional, like sick family members or visiting parents and family members in complex situations. Ask for a plan, ask for (privacy-protected) data, ask for make-up work for those days ... but stop counting every single absence as a potential truancy.

I believe this would require an actual change in the education code, as the rules appear to be pretty set in stone. But if you want to strengthen the trust between schools and parents, it's a start.

Tags: family

() |
Comments (2)

Comments (2)

I absolutely love this idea. I think this would make such a difference in our schools and children. Now that we have all been able to spend so much time at home, as a family unit, our family has seen just how educationally productive time together can be. Pre-covid, we often avoided many potentially educational spots such as museums, trails, etc on weekends just due to the crowds. It would be so lovely to be able to experience those places during the week, when crowds are much smaller.

| Reply

Absolutely. And I think that there are other circumstances that we really need to consider too, like when a family member is ill or has limited ability for visits that could interfere with the normal school day. I was really appalled when I read the education code and it seemed to indicate NO excused time for visiting a dying grandparent, parent, sibling or other life influencer. People obviously do take the time, but what does it say about the trust between schools and families to get the truancy letters and warnings, not to mention the emotional blow? I think if COVID has taught us anything, it's about the importance of personal connections and interactions. And if it interferes with school sometimes, work around it. Don't tie it all to school funding and label folks as chronic absentees. Have a plan to work on the family, and make it part of the education process. PS Thank you for the support shout-out!