Maumee High School Tightens Policy On Unexcused Absences

BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — Beginning next year, Maumee High School won’t be as forgiving of those students who don’t come to class every day. The number of unexcused absences MHS students are permitted to take without affecting course credit will decrease from six days per trimester to four days. The change puts the district in better alignment with House Bill 410, said MHS principal Matt Dick. The bill has passed both houses of the state legislature and is awaiting Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s signature. According to Dick, with the new bill, absences are counted by the number of hours of instruction that a student misses, not by the number of days missed. Unexcused truancy thresholds as well as truancy designations will also change in that a student will be considered “habitually truant” if he or she has missed 30 or more consecutive hours (four days), 42 or more hours in a school month (six days), or 72 or more hours in one year (12 days). While course credit and truancy are two different issues, and the state bill addresses truancy only, the school district has decided to integrate course credit guidelines with the new truancy guidelines to make it less confusing to both parents and students, Dick said. “The state sets the truancy law, but they give us (the districts) more flexibility on the credit – we’ve always tried to align the truancy law with the assigning of credit,” he said. Assistant principal Scott Perrotte agrees that the school had to change its course credit policy. “Under our current system, if a student took six unexcused days per trimester, or 18 for the year, the student would not lose credit. But from a truancy standpoint, they would be chronically truant and in violation of the law,” Perrotte said. Parents or guardians are notified if a student currently has reached truancy thresholds that include increments of three, five, 10 and 12 days of unexcused absences. In addition, a notice indicating a student has lost academic credit is sent after seven missed days. Notices will still be sent under the new state thresholds, said Perrotte. In Maumee, most truancy problems are the result of accumulated absences over the course of the year rather than consecutive days. However, both Dick and Perrotte admit that for many students, the change will take getting used to. “I do think it will be an adjustment for a lot of kids,” said Perrotte. “I do think that many have gotten used to burning days – maybe because they use them to catch up on work or there could be other reasons.” Excused absences, or those that will not negatively affect student attendance, include medically confirmed absences with a doctor’s note indicating specific missed days, court dates with court letter, school-sponsored field trips, a college visit or job shadow – two days for grades nine and 10, three days for 11 and 12 – serving as election precinct worker with a note from a precinct supervisor, quarantine with a note from the Lucas County Health Department, death of immediate family member and other days with proper documentation. A parent calling the school to report a child absent without sending a doctor’s note or taking time off to go on a family vacation will count against a student’s attendance, Perrotte said. Other changes with the law have to do with court proceedings. Currently, if a student has 15 unexcused days from school, he or she is sent to juvenile court to face charges. Next year with the new law, the district is prohibited from suspending, expelling or removing a student from school solely for unexcused absences. Instead, the district must assemble an absence intervention team with a mediation plan for the student aimed at reducing or eliminating further absences. According to Perrotte, if the problem continues, even with the district plan, a charge can be made against the student in juvenile court. Both Dick and Perrotte emphasize that in trying to get students ready for college and the working world, the ability to show up on a regular basis is imperative. “It’s an employability skill,” said Dick “How many jobs can you have 12 absences in a year and you don’t have to get a doctor’s confirmation? I can’t think of many at all.”

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