BOE Changes Policy on Consquences for Absences

Certain numbers of days away from courses can now lead to administrative action.

With one vote against and concerns over whether punishment could be doled out unnecessarily, the board of education approved a policy change July 24 that alters the wording in the district's attendance requirements.

Concerning loss of credits for courses, the policy previously said that anyone absent more than 16 days from a year-long course, 12 days from a physical education course, eight days from a semester course and four days in a single marking period course may be subject to consequences.

The change now says the students will be subject to administrative action.

Board of education member Jeffrey Brookner said he believes this discussion first came up because there were concerns about absences being categorized as excused when they were “weak at best.”

“Especially in those circumstances, there are huge numbers of absences racked up without consequence,” he said. “So they are racking up large numbers for orthodontic appointments [and others] because they don’t want to do it later in the day.”

Brookner said the policy seems to now be designed to address these concerns by leaving the discretion with the administration.

“We are not imposing consequences as a matter of course, we are making it clear that just because it is excused, there needs to be someone who has authority to say you missed x days, you weren’t on your death bed, you didn’t come to the course, you are not getting credit,” he said. “If there are generally excused absences, the administration would not impose the consequences.”

Superintendent of Schools Michael Schilder said the purpose of the change is to send a stronger message from the administration that being in school matters.

“We want you in school, and that’s the best opportunity to teach you,” he said. “We still want flexibility to administer the consequences as we see fit.”

“This is a stronger message to students and parents that we value seat time,” he added.

Parent Penny Wolf said she is concerned by this change, particularly for students who do get sick, and choose to come to school instead.

“My daughter is upset when she gets sick, and she goes to school when she gets sick often, along with her classmates,” she said. “I understand what you are talking about, and there are kids who don’t want to be there, but there are kids who are afraid if they miss four classes of health, so they come to school sick.”

And board member Cindy Cullen said she does not think there should be consequences for excused absences.

“I think it is wrong to have consequences for excused absences, and to even have administrative action,” she said. “Moving from ‘may’ to ‘will’ is a cosmetic issue. I think there is no need to change this.”

Still, the board voted in favor of changing the wording.

“I think it has to be discretionary,” Brookner said. “If there are generally excused absences, the administration will not impose consequences. If they are sort of excused, they will be looked at.”

Toni July 27, 2012 at 12:19 PM
I'm a little confused. Perhaps these bright minds on the board should, instead, refine the list of excused absences rather than continue to categorize certain ones "excused" when they actually are no longer acceptable. Once again I am amazed at the circus that is our BOE.
Mr. Had Enough July 27, 2012 at 12:26 PM
I this is what keeps Brookner up at night, in my opinion somebody needs to give this guy a clue because obviously he doesn't realize that legal language is not going to change a doctors availability, a child's desire to be in a class or the school. This is a waste of time, why not focus on working out differences with the BREA and improve morale of the people that really make kids want to come to school - the teachers!
Mike July 27, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Someone correct me if I'm wrong but until about 3 yrs ago an excused absence meant a doctor's note; now a note from a parent is all it takes (e.g., "Janie gets migraines every morning; please excuse her 43 lates to school."). Try missing 5 weeks of work in a year - a day here and a day there - and see of you still get paid. Before you rant, if little Parth has an appendectomy, it's excused and home instruction is provided by the district. That's not the issue here. What they're trying to address is the chronic "I don't feel like going to school today" cases. I believe the issue of credit and attendance is at least partially driven by state requirements as the number of permitted absences is constant across different towns. Since this is not a huge issue in B-R like it is in some other districts they can actually be reasonable. Since districts avoid reporting bad numbers (lest they draw the ire of the state or some magazine's rankings),districts with rampant truancy routinely overlook cases where kids are out 20 or even 30 days if there's a note from home. We expect our public schools to teach morals, ethics, work, and life skills - shouldn't a reasonable attendance % and consistently showing up on time be part of that? I personally think 16 UNexcused days having zero impact on receiving credit for a class that meets 180 times is VERY generous.
Nichole L July 27, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Mike is 100% right. As a teacher in another district, it looks like these kids were getting free pass for too long. In my school, the loss of credit is automatic.It is then up to the parents to appeal and prove that the absences were excused. If that is too much work for you as a parent, perhaps you shouldn't allow your kid to be absent. When I was in school ALL my doctor/dentist appointments were either in the morning (so I could go to school late) or after school hours. Society is coddling these kids far too much, They are in for a rude awakening once they enter the real world, the one that neither revolves around them nor cares about their excuses!
Mike July 27, 2012 at 06:15 PM
What happened was that [enabling] parents lied consistently saying Johnny had a migraine this morning that was over by 8 am and other b.s. like that. The previous policy wasn't fair to kids who were in school while others were sick for a week and returned with tans and other signs like hair beads that showed how they "beat the system." The new policy will help them learn more about the real world, provided it's actually enforced. Then there are the students whose families have parties, reunions, etc., during the school year. No big deal if it's local, but often that means a three-week absence to go to India, Dominican Republic, or a host of other places. The teacher is tasked with assembling a package for the kid to "try to do" on the trip. Meanwhile, the student has missed hours of lecture, labs, and activities. Why don't they just do it in the summer, you ask? Good question. For Allah's sake, people, we're talking about SIXTEEN free/unchallenged days off in 38 weeks. And although the official policy is one day to makeup work for each day missed, many teachers give almost unlimited time. Why, you ask? Because Biff or Muffy's mommy will call the supervisor, principal, or superintendent and raise a stink about how their baby's being singled out and not given enough time. Bear in mind that except for the final marking period in a course, the lowest marking period grade a student can "earn" is a 60 (another brilliant policy). But that's another topic.
BRSoccer July 28, 2012 at 01:37 AM
The absentee policy at the high school has needed a overhaul for a very long time. It still shocks me that a note from mommy designates an excused absence. Are the validity of those notes ever checked? I'm sure Johnny would never forge a note himself, not in Bridgewater. The board should also look at the fact that students get 4 free passes at signing in late to school without a note from a parent or the need to provide an excuse. In essence, students get to be truant 4 times before disciplinary action is taken. Not sure how that happens. How can policy allow truancy to go unpunished? Are parents even notified when a student signs in late without a note or excuse? Good question. Seems to me that the absentee policy still needs some work. Oh, and Mike brings up another brilliant policy constructed by our BOE; basement grades. How can students be given grades of 60% when they don't earn them? A kid who earns a 32% is given a 60%. This happens for every marking period grade, midterm, and final exam. How can policy reward those students who put forth no effort? These aren't students who work hard and just don't understand, these are kids who put forth no effort. We reward those students in Bridgewater! It's gotta make you feel good!
Gary July 29, 2012 at 05:23 PM
As meaningful dissention to some of the previously espoused views I would like to offer the following. We can debate "morals" and "ethics", however, that said here's a frame of reference for common sense. I like to go on vacation with my family when we collectively deem appropriate. The reason for this is due to the fact my family lives 6K miles away, and because it's a northern state we like to go in the winter, during winter games time. Suffice it to say this is nowhere around "spring break" and precludes my mother and other family members, from seeing there grand children/neices/cousins during a special time of year (don't ask, just take for granted). To travel that far reasonably requires at least 1 week of vacation and due to the 4 absentees/0.5 term class requirement precludes us from ever doing this. Both my children excel academically, and yes to extent it's a graduation requirement we play by the rule, however, one should not immediately assume there are not good reasons why this is not a positive policy and nothing more than a "high brow" power grab by a bunch of little minion administrative government officials trying to flex their muscle and deem what they "feel" is appropriate behavior and what they "require" for one to meet some social standard. Let the diatribes begin....
Mike July 29, 2012 at 06:01 PM
I'm not a huge fan of many administrative decisions, but this one makes sense. Power-grab? On attendance?? Are you serious??? Much of this is driven by the State DoE (www.nj.gov/education/students/safety/.../attendance/checklist.pdf). Do your homework. Some students are proactive. Some can miss 2 weeks of school and do most of the work independently. Many do not. This is targeted at chronically-truant students, and the huge majority of chronically-truant students don't do well academically (for more reasons than poor attendance). Also, there are very few single MP classes, which is the example you cite. Most are full-year, with several semester courses. So if you want to take your trip in February, you wrap it around President's Day, take the 4 unexcused days, and you still have plenty of "spare" days. Furthermore, it's disruptive to small group learning, projects, etc. Out of curiosity, would you feel the same way if your kid's teacher took a week or two off for a family vacation? Many would argue it would adversely affect instruction. The practice of extending a long weekend or holiday is extremely common in private industry, it's essentially forbidden in education; I know teachers who have had a request for a SINGLE personal day on either end of a long weekend denied, even when it's for something like a wedding. The average attendance rate for staff at BRHS is 97.9% (<4 days out/yr); seniors manage 94.1% (almost 11 days out). http://bit.ly/T00PnV
Mike July 29, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Sorry, first link is broken. Try this: http://www.nj.gov/education/students/safety/behavior/attendance/checklist.pdf The compulsory education law (N.J.S.A. 18A:38-28 through 31) requires all children between the ages of 6-16 to attend school. The attendance regulations (N.J.A.C. 16:6-7.8), require each district board of education to develop, adopt and implement policies and procedures regarding the attendance of students, including the adoption of a definition of “unexcused absence,” and the provision of mandated services for students with between one and nine cumulative unexcused absences and a mandated court referral for truant students, those with ten or more cumulative unexcused absences. Information and resources for the prevention and remediation of attendance problems can be found below. N.J.S.A. 18A:38-2 Attendance required of children between six and 16; N.J.S.A. 18A:38-26 Days when attendance required N.J.S.A. 18A:38-27 Truancy and juvenile delinquency defined N.J.S.A. 18A:38-28 Truants; return to parents or school N.J.S.A. 18A:38-29 Warning and arrest of vagrants or habitual truants N.J.S.A. 18A:38-30 Assistance of sheriffs, police officers, etc. N.J.S.A. 18A:38-31 Failure to comply with provisions of article; fine N.J.S.A. 18A:38-32 District and county vocational school attendance officers More relevant light reading (yes, 80 pages): http://www.nj.gov/education/code/current/title6a/chap16.pdf
Mike July 29, 2012 at 06:36 PM
@BRSoccer: Many districts moved from requiring a doc's note to a parent's note because (I believe) administrators are loathe to deal with angry parents (or lawsuits). Fortunately, most B-R parents are rational. BRHS's old grading policy was a 0-12 scale (12 = A+, 0 = U). BTW, U replaced F a while back because F hurt the kids' self esteem (below 65% = U). The new scale of 60-100 was adopted for the same reasons as well as to keep up (or down) with most other districts. This is a non-issue for most BRHS students that actually make a bona fide attempt to work. Students get either 4 or 5 "free" lates to BRHS. That's right, late (2 minutes, 20 minutes, no matter) without any consequences whatsoever. Lates to class result in 45-minute detentions. All that said, the climate at BRHS is still light-years ahead of other districts. For example, 20 seconds after the late bell for class the halls are clear; many other high schools feature noisy, disruptive, sauntering wanderers for the next several minutes. This is all about the culture of the school. Are things like punctuality, respect, attendance, achievement, etc., valued? Overall, they are at BRHS. Kids will push the envelope and get away with as much as they can - that's their job as teenagers. It's the adults' job to draw a [reasonable] line and enforce it, and [I believe] it's the parents' job to support this effort. Student Handbook: http://bit.ly/Q1aTxe The Real World: http://bit.ly/LyqtO5
Gary July 29, 2012 at 09:32 PM
First, I didn't say the BOE was the instigator of the over-arching policy, I did infer their implimentation of said structure appears to be heavy handed. Given Mr. Brookner's quote, “We want you in school, and that’s the best opportunity to teach you,” he said. “We still want flexibility to administer the consequences as we see fit.” “This is a stronger message to students and parents that we value seat time,” he added. Certainly sounds like an implied threat to me and somewhat of implied heavy-handedness. Secondly, I've been explicitly told that taking kids out for vacation is NOT an excused absence. So would be curious as to the circumstances which allow for 2 weeks of school un-excused. Third, I would be curious as to what relevance if BRHS meets it academic criteria attendance race bears towards this issue whatsoever. Finally, you pose a false analogy in comparing teachers to students. Irrespective of being the delivery vehicle for multiple students they are paid employees not wards of the state. Again, this appears to me a solution in search of problem....
Mike July 30, 2012 at 12:19 AM
The point regarding teacher absences was to show that even having a sub in for a couple of weeks would irritate some parents, so the complete absence of any instruction for a long period of time would be much more significant. Per the Student Handbook... --- Examples of Chargeable Absences are: 1. Personal illness (regardless of parent note or doctor’s note) 2. Death in the family 3. Truancy 4. Medical appointments 5. College visitations 6. More than 20 minutes unexcused late from class 7. Class cuts 8. Nurse’s office visits 9. Driver’s license test 10. Take Your Child To Work Day Examples of Non-Chargeable Absences are: 1. Participation in field trips, athletic competitions, school activities 2. Suspensions from school 3. Religious holidays – as recognized by the NJ Department of Education 4. Mandatory quarantines – as ordered by a medical professional 5. Court appearances --- As I mentioned, for lengthy, contiguous absences the district will usually arrange home instruction [at taxpayer expense]. I know of students in other districts who are too anxious to attend school and they receive all their instruction this way. Suboptimal, but they get credit and graduate. As far as "what relevance if BRHS meets it academic criteria attendance race bears towards this issue" is concerned, just because the school as a whole does well should not result in free passes for 2% or so. Consider offering your expertise/experience at the next BoE meeting.
jerzdvl25 August 02, 2012 at 08:15 PM
The number of absences, from all types of students at BRHS is unacceptable! Period! There are large numbers of students who are absent 20, 30, 40 and 50 plus days from classes, and still get credit! There are students who show up late, leave early or skip the entire day, and their parents are not aware. There are also parents who know that their student skipped, and still write a note any way. But overwhemlingly, most notes a forged. I had a student this past year tell me that she could not submit a legit note from her Mom because she felt that it could blow her cover. Bottom line, can a student submit a note from their parents to a college professor....NO! Can your Mommie write a note to your employer when you're in your 20's and 30's...NO! Can you be absent from work more than 20% of the time and expect to remain employed....NO! Then the BoE needs to do the right thing and parents need to stop hovering over their students! You are not helping, you are hurting them in the long run!
Mike August 02, 2012 at 08:26 PM
PowerSchool has been online for a while - any concerned parent/guardian can check (or call). I believe the district/school robo-calls when a student is out. As I said, BRHS is 100x better than many other high schools. BTW, mommy can and does call the employer: http://www.npr.org/2012/02/06/146464665/helicopter-parents-hover-in-the-workplace And professors: http://collegeblog.positionu4college.com/2010/08/23/helicopter-parents-college-and-beyond/ Fortunately, the really chronic cases are minimal at BRHS (less than 5%); in other districts it's a LOT more. Yet teachers are held accountable for those students' success. But that's another thread.


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