Adding up the unexcused absences

Natalia Lazor

The man in the attendance office slid a green slip across the counter into my awaiting hand. He understood that I could not have prevented the leak in my tire. Despite there being many words and lines on the slip, the only one I could focus on was the large, defined and undeserving black circle around the word “unexcused.”

The absence policies at Redwood should be reexamined, specifically the definition of an excused absence and its limitations. If the absences, like appointments, are planned, they are much easier to get excused. The likelihood of getting a spontaneous absence excused is not high, even though they are difficult to prevent.

Senior Sydney Abrams strongly advocates for a reexamination due to multiple experiences in the past. Abrams has dealt with being late and marked absent for family and parking reasons. This is a struggle for students like Abrams because it’s something that is increasingly frustrating.

“Personally, I have had a lot of circumstances in which I have no power over whether or not I’m late for school,” Abrams said.

There are a number of reasons why students miss school, but only some are seen by the administration as significant and excusable. Often the marks on our transcripts come from the sporadic, unplanned times we need to skip school. Car, family or parking issues are not often taken into consideration.

Students don’t realize the affect of the unexcused absences piling up. It is less important in the first three years of high school to have absences on your transcript, but when senior year rolls around they do make a difference. According to the Parent/Student handbook, after four absences in one class, a student is not allowed to walk at graduation. Some don’t recognize the effects of unexcused absences because the impact is most prominent during senior year when risking not walking at graduation.

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One of the main issues for Abrams is the “ten minute rule.” After arriving ten minutes late to class, most teachers mark the student absent. This is difficult because the rule marks a student absent for all of the 50 minute period even if they show up just ten minutes tardy.

Abrams often has to drive her younger sister to school when her dad is not available. She is unable to get to class on time but helping her younger sister is not negotiable.

“I get to school at 7:50… and then I’m late for my class because there’s no parking at Redwood and then I have an unexcused absence even though I got to school on time,” Abrams said.

Remembering a time she resorted to desperate measures, Abrams recalls when she parked in a red zone so she could be on time for class and ended up with a parking ticket, in which case, she was fighting a losing battle. Abrams believes that students should not be penalized by the means of a red ‘unexcused’ mark on their attendance records when the made the effort to come to school.

According to the Parent/Student Handbook, students are excused for engagements such as doctor’s appointments, illness, funeral services and college visits. Do these issues really cover all of the bases when it comes to marking us late for school?

Arguably, some students ditch class and misuse the policies. It has taken credibility away from the legitimate reasons. The misapplication of policies by a few students should not harm the chances of others in the reexamination of the guidelines.

According to Assistant Principal LaSandra White, the school has strict policies and that state car troubles are not excused.

When it comes to a family issues, the school assesses the situation.

“If it happens on occasion it’s one thing but if it’s a repeated pattern of ‘I’ve got to take my brother or sister to school,’ then we should accommodate that. That’s why we have flexibility. You could have no first period if it works for the schedule,” White said.

However, illness is easy to fake and this seems to be one of the reasons for the strict policies. These circumstances can challenge the faculty’s trust in the students.

If the policies were to be reexamined, some things that should be taken into consideration are the last minute, unplanned reasons we miss school, such as not being able to find a parking spot or having a spontaneous family obligation. The list of what is determined ‘excused’ should be broadened so that the uncertainty with cars or families can result in the student being certain that it won’t be another tally under the unexcused absence.

“We have a policy for a reason, but I think we’re all human beings and we have compassion in situations where we think it’s warranted,” White said.