Attendance. In high school or middle school, it is something that is always seen as a priority, but are there exceptions to this highly focused policy?

This year at Malden High School there is a new attendance policy, adjusted from the previous one: if a student has four or more unexcused absences in a class, then the student may receive a 59 for the quarter instead of their earned grade. 

Along with an adjusted attendance policy, the administration has also reissued the “Attendance Appeal” policy. Students who are failing a class due to lack of attendance can defend their right to keep their earned grades in the class to the school administration. Although there are options to make up for attendance, should students be at fault?

Flow chart of administration policy on Attendance Appeals. Graph created by the administration.

There are many flu and colds that happen in a year, as well as the coronavirus that is still so widely effective, especially back in school. While the coronavirus is an excused absence (with proof of a positive test), what about the other sicknesses that can be caught throughout the year-especially the sicknesses that don’t need a doctor’s treatment? According to the CDC, “Most people with flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care.” 

Every time a student has to go to the doctor’s office because they aren’t feeling well is more money out of a family’s pocket. Money is sometimes wasted to get a doctor’s note for the school when the student might already know what is wrong with them and just needs the time to get better. Gabriela Krupka, a senior, said, “Sometimes, people can wake up feeling nauseous or with a cold, and it would just be a hassle to go to the doctor’s office because this is something that you do not need a doctor’s diagnosis for.” There are many times doctors advise against doctor appointments if they are not needed in specific circumstances. 

Even though this policy is strict, it does encourage students to come to school on time and make more efforts to try. However, “If a student is able to keep up with their grades, even with excessive absences, then their hard work should not go down the drain,” said Krupka. 

A solution to such a broad issue is to update the policy to the understanding of what society has learned today about illnesses and the coronavirus. The CDC also found that the “…flu has resulted in 9 million – 41 million illnesses” in the U.S. per year during 2010-2020. The facts proven deserve to be an excused absence based on the frequency of illnesses. 

There are also other situations not involving sickness that students have no choice but to miss school. One example is school dismissal, where parents also make the decision for their children. For example, missing school for a vacation. There are times when students’ families make decisions that a student has to miss school, which is not in their control. Should they be punished for it?

At Malden High School, unless you are 18 years old, you are unable to dismiss yourself without a parent or guardian’s permission. If it is required to have a parent release their children from school, why is it not acceptable for them to give a note excusing them from school? Senior Jose Mejia Guerrero expressed his opinion on the unacceptance of notes from parents to be “preposterous.” 

Now seeing as a student could usually only be missing out on one day of school because of illness, family obligations, etc., it won’t affect their grades as much if it’s a first-time occurrence. The administration is giving a one-time solution of an appeal but many things can happen in a school year and there should be more guidelines for the judgment of an excusable absence other than the determination of the decision from a house principal or panelist. Guerrero said, “[The appeal] sounds absurd.” 

With the different circumstances for many absences, it is a good opportunity for students to be able to explain their situation and why they were absent with the appeal process. Although one solution that Guerrero proposed, before the need to appeal, was to monitor notes from parents and make phone calls for confirmation of the reason for the absence. Guerrero also went on to say, “This policy may be the easiest to prevent forgeries and fake sick days, but it isn’t necessarily the right way.” 

Malden High School is filled with many students with different opinions and solutions. The administration should consider opening up to the idea of finding other solutions to the attendance issues of students that experience those unique situations. They have always looked for ways to connect with the student body and make the school whole, and what better way to solve such a schoolwide issue than with the students that undergo it?

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