Whether this is your first year at East or your last, you might be unaware of the official attendance policy at East. You are not alone, it seems barely anyone in the building knows the official policy and this may be the reason why it is so consistently ignored. However, this year teachers and administration are cracking down on tardies and absences.
Although it is unknown whether or not it has been updated for the 2022-2023 school year, the attendance policy on the East website states that, “When a student has 5 or more days of excused absences the attendance clerk will contact the dean to see if there is a significant concern regarding the students’ attendance.” For many that may seem very dramatic, 5 days out of the 160 in the year isn’t a lot. Though the consistency with which this is enforced varies case by case, it’s still a scary concept. Especially when Mr. Anderson informed parents at the beginning of the year that they would be receiving home visits if their child’s attendance fell too low, it’s unknown whether or not this is being enforced.
Faith from the attendance office says that the requirements for an attendance contract “varies case by case”. But still, the concept of an attendance contract for many students is daunting. It’s not just the administration that makes low attendance a concern, but teachers especially.
When students miss school for reasons out of their control, they’re missing valuable information being taught in class and oftentimes fall behind. While some teachers are understanding and patient, not all of them are the same. When I missed a couple weeks of school last year due to health issues, many of my teachers were very understanding, but there were still the few that would make catching up on work much more difficult than it needed to be. But what about students with disabilities? Or chronic illnesses that cause them to miss school? Is this policy fair? Are teachers fair?
Student Chelsi Evans doesn’t think so. Chelsi suffers from ulcerative colitis, autoimmune hepatitis, and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). Last year, Chelsi was only able to be in school for three months of the year, the other time she was out for medical reasons. This affected her grades greatly and made school a lot more stressful in an already very stressful situation. When asked how teachers respond when she misses so much school, she replied “They don’t really know what to do. East is so big and they have so many students to keep track of that it’s hard for them to focus on certain students.” Teachers at East are in charge of many more students than other schools and Faith in the attendance office is solely in charge of the attendance of every student at East, almost 3,000 kids. This is very hard for anyone to manage alone.
Chelsi also said that extensions on work would make school work much easier for her. Chelsi says, “I feel like they made the policy for students that are more able to go to school and don’t really consider the rest of us.” She believes that not only is the attendance policy unfair, but East’s size makes things extremely difficult as well. As teachers have more students they are responsible for, ones that miss a lot of school slip through the cracks. When asked if she feels she is at an unfair disadvantage, Chelsi replied instantly, “Oh yeah. It sucks.” Chelsi is not alone. According to the DPS website, 12.1% of the students in our district have disabilities, not including those with chronic illness.
When asked if she thinks the attendance policy is effective and fair, Faith said, “I believe we are doing the best we can with what we have.” The question of whether East’s attendance policy is fair is a complicated one. But it’s clear that there are students at a great disadvantage who do not feel that East is doing enough to support them.