Attendance Policy Shake-Up

The recent policy defines an excused absence.


Vacations, hiking trips, out of school sports games: all thing that now cannot be excused with a pre-planned absence form at Garfield.
Many students have noticed this change as their attempts to excuse absences are hindered by the recently-enacted policy.
“We started having the pre-planned attendance policy which was for kids to…do educational vacations,” Ms. Portia Beard, the Truancy Intervention Specialist for Garfield, commented in an interview.
These forms initially were for anything that didn’t fall under the typical medical, dental, and other appointments.
“Over the years we’ve been using the pre-planned as a way for kids to go on vacations or and do sports, things of that nature,” Beard continued.
The predicament is, Garfield is out of compliance with the school district’s policy on excused absences, and has been for years. January 2nd was the deadline for getting back into compliance.
Although the policy is recent to Garfield, it is the norm for all other high schools in the district.
“That’s why we went back to no more pre-plans for vacations…because no other school in the district gets that, only Garfield,” Beard stressed.
The policy has struck a nerve for many students, as it affects what work can be made up in missed classes.
“If your absences are not excused, then you are not supposed to be able to make up school work,” Beard stated.
Furthermore, the protocol has alarmed numerous students, as too many absences can result in the declaration of truancy. Officially, a student is considered truant if they miss 5 or more unexcused days in a month or 10 or more unexcused days in a year.
After one unexcused absence, a call home to inform the child’s legal guardian will be made. After three, a conference or conferences with the legal guardian and child will be scheduled, in order to to outline a plan to eliminate or reduce the student’s absences.
If the actions taken by a school district are not successful in substantially reducing a student’s absences, then, by the seventh unexcused absence in a month or the tenth unexcused absence during the current school year, the school district is required to file a petition to the juvenile court.
This can result in a variety of court order for the legal guardian and student such as time in a juvenile detention facility, fines. The student can also be ordered to attend a different public school or an alternative education program.
Nonetheless, there are still things that can be excused, such as Garfield recognized sports and class field trips.
“Where the dilemma begins is with outside sports and trips that are not associated with Garfield.
“We can excuse… a family emergency but we have to evaluate what a family emergency means,” Beard said.
This can include more critical things- like death in the family, and a family member in the hospital.
What constitutes as an excused absence is outlined in the WAC, a legally binding document all public schools in Washington must use as a standard. The different codes pertaining to education can be accessed online, as well as an official list of what absences can be excused.
For example, the WAC states a “Religious or cultural purpose including observance of a religious or cultural holiday or participation in religious or cultural instruction” is an excused absence.
For an unexcused absences it provides a much broader definition, characterizing it as anything that does not fall under the specified excused absences.
The excused absence policy is officially here to stay, so Garfield students will have to make the best of it.