New Policy Effective 2012-2013 School Year; Number of Allowed Absences Reduced
The Allegany County Board of Education recently revised its policy on student attendance making some notable changes. Included in these revisions are reductions to the number of total absences, both excused and unexcused, a student can have during a given school year; limitations to the number of parent notes a student may submit; the intervals at which attendance notices will be sent home to parents; the filing of criminal charges for non-attendance against both parents and students after a set number of absences; and the enforcement of guidelines for denying credit in high school courses.
According to the revised policy, a student many miss no more than twelve days of school per school year, down from fifteen. When a student accumulates a total of twenty absences, with at least five of those absences being unexcused, or ten consecutive unexcused absences, the student and his or her parent or guardian will face punitive action. Additionally, a parent may submit a note to document the illness of a child, for up to and including the twelfth cumulative day of absences for the current school year. This number is also down from fifteen prior to policy revisions. After the twelfth absence, a student must submit a doctor’s note in order for the absences to be excused.
The school system is responsible for notifying parents and students of accumulated absences and possible actions. Attendance notices will now be set home after the fifth, ninth, and twelfth absence, down from the eighth, twelfth, and fifteenth. Furthermore, for students in grades 9-12 who have accumulated a total of fifteen unexcused absences, denial of high school credit for the courses in which the student is currently enrolled is a potential result.
In addition to these changes, the school system has worked cooperatively with the State’s Attorney’s Office to prosecute cases more effectively and efficiently, which has resulted in increased penalties for parents and students. “Regular school attendance is very important, and this Office will continue to work with the Board of Education in promoting proper attendance in our schools,” offered Michael Twigg, State’s Attorney.
At the middle school level, the school system has benefited from the support provided through the Truancy Prevention Program sponsored by a grant from the Local Management Board. This program provides assistance to Braddock and Washington Middle Schools by utilizing a Truancy Prevention Coordinator to assist schools in outreach efforts for at-risk students and families.
According to Kim Green, principal at Washington Middle School, “Our Truancy Prevention Coordinator offered many incentives this year including an ice-cream sundae treat for the grade that had the best attendance rate during a certain period. She also gave away prizes at the end of the year for students who had 94% or higher attendance.” “The Truancy Prevention Program has been a nice complement to the work of our School Resource Officers who have continued to be a huge help in our preventative efforts,” stated Dr. Ben Brauer, Assistant Supervisor of Student Services.
At the elementary and middle school levels there has also been increased support provided by the Department of Juvenile Services. In addition, there has been a 40% decrease in the number of students at all grade levels who fit the state’s definition for “habitually truant” from school year 2010-2011 to school year 2011-2012. Subsequently, system wide school attendance is on the rise.
According to Dr. Brauer, “It goes without saying that school attendance is vital to achievement. Over the past two years, we have been working hard as a system to encourage school attendance for all and also to identify and address the root of each individual student attendance issue we encounter.” He went on to say, “I can’t express my appreciation enough for the support and cooperation we have received from the State’s Attorney’s Office, DJS, and our local law enforcement agencies.”
As a balance to the consequences issued to those students who violate the ACPS attendance policy, school system administrators, teachers, and support staff strive to encourage students to attend school by using attendance incentives and initiatives in place at all schools. Various incentives include monthly perfect attendance certificates and bulletin board recognitions, small gifts such as pens or pencils, awards assemblies, or restaurant coupons.
Additionally, students at the Career Center have the opportunity to win a car and a computer each year for perfect attendance. “Since I’ve been here at the Career Center, students that have won the car have been those that truly needed it and are very appreciative of the gift,” stated Bill Payne, assistant principal at the Career Center. “Students set their own goals on participating in the program.”
The school board’s policy on student attendance states that “regular school attendance is expected of all students in the Allegany County Public Schools. School attendance is directly related to school achievement. In order to maximize academic achievement, there must be a unified effort by all school staff, parents, students and the community to improve overall school attendance.” Click here to view this policy (file: JED) in its entirety.