The Dreaded Attendance Letter

The Dreaded Attendance Letter

It’s inevitable: kids are going to miss school.  No one will argue the fact that when they are sick, they need to stay home.  Doctor appointments?  Sometimes they just can’t be scheduled outside of school hours.    A few sick days a year is expected.  That’s life.

The problem arises, however, when kids miss many days of school.  Attendance is a critical component to student success.  If students aren’t at school, they miss out big time.  Missing even one day can leave a student feeling lost.  Think of the feeling you have when you walk into a meeting 10 minutes late… it’s kind of like that.   Teachers can fill in the gaps in content that students miss, but they still miss out on the questions and conversations that surround a lesson; after all, a great lesson is much less about what a teacher says, and more about what it elicits from the students.  Physically being at school- participating in the magic that occurs during classroom discussions and playground interactions – cannot be “made up” like assignments.

But what about those family vacations?  Those days when parents want to take kids out for their birthdays or other events?  As a parent, I get it.  My boys are my world; I can’t imagine many things better than a birthday cuddle-session with two spoons and a pint of ice cream.  The reality, however, is it is not allowed…. And not because the school says so… because the law says so.  It’s not the decision of the school nurse, the social worker, or even the principal.  It’s district policy that supports students’ legal right to an education.

A few fun days off?  You’re probably not going to get much push back.  But when the number of absences rises – even if for legitimate sick days – you’re going to hear from the school.  It typically starts with a letter.  If attendance does not improve, it might proceed to a phone call or home visit.  When chronic, it moves to either a truancy office or Child Protective Services.

Let’s be honest.  Sometimes airline tickets are cheaper on a Wednesday.  You do what you have to do.  Just keep in mind that the same is true for schools.  That letter that gets sent home?  Just doing what they gotta do.   Take a breath, reflect on those vacation memories, and improve your child’s attendance.