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“I don’t feel well; I think I’m going to stay home today.”
This may be the most overused excuse for staying home from school, especially since half of the time, the real reason is something completely unrelated to being sick. However, kids will take every opportunity to stay as far away as possible from the dreaded place, primarily when the real reason for staying homebound more than likely has to do with unfinished schoolwork or tests that were left unstudied for.
Folsom student Emily Mann reveals how she stayed home to finish an assignment. “I skipped school because I had to finish a Spanish project that was due the next day, but instead of working on it during the day, I waited until that night. Staying home didn’t end up helping me.” Regardless of what provokes any student to skive off school, we’re left questioning why attendance is important and when it’s okay and not okay to remain at home. Is it possible that there are ways to keep students from cutting classes?
Some might wonder why missing a single day would affect anything. It’s just one absence, right? Nothing the student can’t make up the following day. In the grand scheme of things, attendance is extremely important for numerous reasons. The concern only sets in when the student has double the amount of homework the day they return to school. Principal Peter Efstathiu of Placer High School in Auburn says, “Students who come to school every day do not fail their classes. There is a strong correlation between absenteeism and lack of academic progress.” It’s easier to fall behind when there’s more work to be completed. Math or other rigorous classes are often difficult to catch up in – one must either teach him or herself the lesson or seek an additional appointment with their teacher to learn the material. And when laziness kicks in, students don’t take it upon themselves to catch up. If students are continually absent from school, it not only leaves them in the dust, but also creates bad habits for future jobs and for college.
That does not mean students are absolutely restricted from staying home. There are always special circumstances where it’s completely acceptable to miss a day or two of school. The exceptions? Important family matters as well as true illnesses. Exaggerating how sick you are is a common justification that is often a cover for something else. Additionally, skipping school for concerts or day trips generally isn’t a work ethic that is acceptable or rewarded in the “real world,” so educators often remind students of this. Ultimately the decision is up to the parents and their judgment.
Parents should have the final say in their child’s attendance, but Efstathiu also comments that parents are oftentimes just as guilty as the student. “Parents want to excuse the absence so that their child avoids discipline for the cut.” So it all comes down to a final question when debating about whether or not to attend school: Is it positively necessary to stay home? Chances are…probably not.
Tips for Preventing School Truancy
The following are specific things you can do to keep your child in the classroom. Excerpt below is from the Parents’ Guide to Truancy by Hamilton Fish Institute on School and Community Violence. For more information and resources, visit hamfish.org.
Set Boundaries: Talk to your children about the role education plays in future/life success. Let them know that you do not approve of them missing school. Refuse to write an excuse for unacceptable reasons. Review acceptable and unacceptable behavior with your child.
Ask Questions: Take an active interest in your children’s schoolwork. Ask them to demonstrate what they learned in school. Know the children your child associates with.
Stay Informed: Know the school’s attendance policy, the time school starts, the difference between an excused and unexcused absence, and share the information with your child.
Be Prepared: Prepare your child for school with required supplies and clothes. If you need assistance, contact your local social services agency.
Schedule Time: Set a time for your child to go to bed, wake up, have a healthy breakfast, arrive at school, and complete his/her homework. Monitor things in your home such as family routines that may prevent you or your child from keeping to the schedule.
Plan Appointments: Plan visits to the doctor or dentist after the school day ends. If you must take an appointment during the school day, allow the child to miss only time needed for that appointment.
Plan Vacations: Always talk with the school before you plan your holiday or vacation.
If you know your child is late to school, missing school, skipping class or not interested in attending school, you can help them.
Be Alert: Look for early signs of a child’s decision that school is not worthwhile. Monitor changes in friendships, teachers, or classrooms or even the loss of a pet or family member. All of these things contribute to reasons why children dread going to school.
Look for Alternatives: If your child tells you he or she is bored at school, pursue support outside the school such as music lessons, sports clubs, neighborhood or church-related youth groups, or mentors. Seek out and enroll your child in a tutoring program, if necessary.
Be Pro-Active: Regularly contact the school office to make sure your child is attending school. Check in with his or her teachers on a regular basis. Make random visits to your child’s classroom to observe.
Maintain Your Routine: Stick to a regular schedule for homework, bedtime, and waking up.
Provide Incentives: Reward good attendance. However, keeping your child out of school for his or her birthday is not acceptable.
Talk about Consequences: Be sure that your child knows if he or she skips school, there will be consequences to pay such as losing television or video game time, limiting time with friends, or the lost of other privileges.
Seek Advice: Speak to other parents and guardians who have experienced the same issues and problems. This can be a great way to get valuable advice and information.
Monitor Behavior: Look for negative behavior changes such as alcohol use or staying out late. Seek a counselor if your child’s behavior becomes, distant, with- drawn, anxious, depressed, delinquent or aggressive.
Talk about Expectations: Talk with your child about acceptable and unacceptable behavior and grades. Discuss homework rules and school attendance.
Have Consistent Expectations: Relaxing the rules for even one assignment or day can give a mixed message. Make sure that all your children live up to the same standards.
Communicate with Your Child: Ask your child how you can help. Think about what situations he or she might face and talk about ways to handle these situations before they occur.
Be Supportive: Encourage your child to take an active role in the school by joining clubs or participating in sports. Teach them when and how to ask for help.
Educate Yourself: Understand what your child is expected to learn at each grade level. Contact your state department of education, school district, or school for a copy of the standards and school attendance policies. Find out what goals your child’s teacher
has for the year and how your child will be graded.
The school can provide support to help you prevent your child from skipping school or missing classes. Remember the school needs your help also.
Be Available: Make sure the school has your correct contact information. Provide work, home, cell and, if necessary, caretaker phone numbers.
Be Honest: Talk with the principal and school social worker regarding changes that may affect the child’s behavior such as divorce, death or sickness in the family, a missing pet, or a possible move. If your child has special needs, inform the teacher at the start of the school year.
Help the Teacher Connect with Your Child: Tell the teacher about your child’s hobbies and interests.
Get Advice: Ask the teacher for suggestions on how to make the homework time go more smoothly.
Get Involved: Assist your child’s teacher in classroom-related projects such as reading or one hour mentoring programs. Volunteer to assist with activities outside of the school such as class trips or school sponsored neighborhood events. Participate in parent, teacher, student associations organized by the school. Attend meetings scheduled by the school such as teacher conferences or family workshops such as planning for college.
Be Open-Minded: Inform school officials of your interest in receiving feedback on your child’s progress, attendance, and behavior.
Speak Up: Question policies that counter the goal of keeping children in the classroom. Encourage your school to create alternatives to out-of-school suspension and expulsion. Seek changes in school grading policies related to attendance.
Collaborate: Be familiar with school disciplinary policies to ensure that actions at home support or reinforce the actions of the school.
Follow up: When your child must miss school because of illness, contact the school immediately and arrange to pick up assignments, if necessary.