Sweetwater county School District No. 1 is looking at potential attendance policy changes to address its chronic truancy issue. We agree it’s a good thing and the truancy problem needs addressed. We do, however, have some concerns with the changes, and we are disappointed in regards to how people reacted to the issue on social media, without providing strong solutions.
Some of the items Sweetwater No. 1 will consider include:
• Changing the maximum amount of excused absences from 10 days to five days for students.
Our argument: Five is a good number, but is the change too much? Why will five work and not 10? Or eight, or six?
• A student with eight unexcused absences will not earn credit in the course(s) identified unless the student qualifies for a credit appeal process as an additional intervention.
Our argument: Having to file an appeal to not lose a credit based on attendance may be unfair and could cause more conflicts. For example, if a student has lousy attendance but is passing, then their focus may not be on education. They could be dealing with issues like a death in the family or have jobs after school. No all student’s lives are created equal, and the district should help these students be as successful as the next. As they say, one size does not fit all.
Kids may do better in the classroom if they attend most of their classes, but shouldn’t lose credits if they are passing the course and are facing personal obstacles. This will make graduation goals more difficult to achieve and discourage some of those students. Our fear is that they will give up and just get their general education development test certificate, or worse, drop out, instead of pursuing a high school diploma and entering the workforce and/or going to college.
• Not having absences count against students involved in non-sanctioned sports and activities as long as they meet district eligibility requirements.
Eligibility means students have to be actively enrolled in and have a passing grade in six out of seven classes, Sweetwater No. 1 Human Resources Director Nicole Bolton told the Rocket-Miner.
“Sweetwater County School District No. 1’s Policy Committee recognized attendance concerns existed across the district and with the current attendance policy,” a district press release states. “The committee worked over the course of the past couple months looking at policies around the state and revising our current attendance policy as a proposal to the board of trustees.”
Our argument: We are glad the district is recognizing there is an issue and while the policy needs to be addressed, it has to be examined from multiple perspectives. For example, the district needs to delve deeper into the truancy issue.
The first question the district needs to consider closely is, how does it define truancy?
According to U.S. Legal, truancy refers to being absent without permission or good reason, especially from school. Whether a student has a valid excuse depends on whether it is acceptable to the school district. Students are typically considered truant when they stay home from school, with or without a parent’s permission, in order to avoid the responsibility of attending classes of instruction.
The next step would be to figure out why there is a truancy issue and what resources can be used to address it and make students successful.
Students could miss school for a myriad of reasons ranging from illness to being bullied. What can the school and/or district do to alleviate the student’s anxiety? What are ways teachers can help, despite the enormous amount of duties on their plate already?
If a student is struggling in classes, for whatever reason, give the student a chance to open up then try and work with them. If that is not effective, get others involved, whether it is through placing a student with a tutor and/or having them visit with a counselor, which the district states it would do in a presentation it will give at Wednesday’s board meeting.
The question is, how can this be executed?
Some need to calm the heck down. Recently, a few have gone to the district’s Facebook page and on a post about the proposed changes they rattled off heated statements. It is understandable to have strong emotions about the topic. We are human after all, but in order to make a valid point, stop pointing fingers with no possible remedies offered, especially on social media. Do something. Come up with solutions to back up or address those concerns.
This is cliché, but children are the most precious commodities we have. If we lose them along the way, whatever the cause or case may be, then what?
The district is taking a positive step to address truancy, but there are multiple layers it needs to consider. Do not lump all students into this category. Address the issue itself, those students who fall in the truancy category, and help put them on a track that will not only allow them to do better in school, but allow them to reach their future potentials, as well as become productive and outstanding community members.
“Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people may be engaged in,” Abraham Lincoln.