Thursday, September 1, 2016

What is up with Absences?

At back to school night, we were told that Austin ISD was changing it's policy about excused absences. Specifically, if your child is home sick, she will need a note from her doctor in order for the absence to be excused.

At first glance, this might seem like a terrible idea. Parents will send their sick kids to school because they feel torn between an inconvenient trip to the doctor (plus a copay) and a big "U" on their kid's permanent record.

Here is the thing. AISD (and any public school district or charter school) can excuse whatever absences they feel like excusing (GOSH!). It is within their discretion pursuant to Texas Education Code §25.087(a). But they have no motivation to do this because they only collect Foundation School Funding when kids are in school or when they are out for excused absences that are outlined in TEC §25.087(b), (b-1), (b-2), (b-4), or (c) [legal speak for, everything but (a), or the absences the district can excuse]. So districts like AISD tend to be stingy with those kind of excused absences. Because why bother?

They really don't care if your kid brings in a note from a doctor or not. They just want you to think long and hard about how sick your kid really is. And they don't want your kid to stay home if he or she isn't really sick at all. Because they don't get paid if your kid doesn't come.

But what happens if your kid gets an unexcused absence? The same thing that happens if your kid gets an excused absence from the district. They both count exactly the same way towards the "90 percent rule" that is outlined in TEC §25.092. Or, as the Student Attendance and Accounting Handbook states: "Numerous absences, whether excused or unexcused, may jeopardize a student’s ability to receive credit or final grades for classes (see the TEC, §25.092, for requirements related to minimum attendance for class credit or a final grade)."

So it's not 100% accurate to say they are exactly the same. If your child has three unexcused absences in a four week period, or 10 in a 6 month period, you (the parent) will get a warning notice that the cops are coming for you soon. Like with TV cameras, and stuff. It'll be really embarrassing, okay? So don't take your kids on tour with your band, you hippies. (Also, can I please be in your band? I play a mean tambourine.) Unless you are planning something truant-like for the school year, then it's really not a big deal if you get that silly doctor's note. If your kid is sick, and you know they are sick, and you don't feel like dragging them to the doctor, AISD can just deal with it.

*Follow up: I have yet to find any documentation in school or district policy validating this policy.

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