SUNDAY, OCTOBER 25TH, 2020
At Palo Alto High School, nothing short of a field trip, a college visit, an illness or a family death counts as an excuse for a student to miss school. This attendance policy, while earnest in its efforts to restrict gratuitous absences, is illogical and unnecessarily harsh.

The Campanile would like to provide constructive, substantiated criticism on how to amend the policy so that it is more fair to students, yet still legitimate. Our paper feels that the following analysis is both substantiated and legitimate:

In the United States, the average American worker receives 14 salaried days of vacation per year, and Palo Alto counts some of the hardest-working Americans among its populous.

Many Paly parents work local medicine, law or STEM jobs, which often impose inflexible schedules and demanding hours on employees. Thus, the holidays given to students are not always aligned with the time off that their parents receive, which often creates the need to take family trips (for reunions, educational purposes or pleasure) during some part of the scheduled school year.

However, the price that students have to pay for such trips is receiving an unexcused absence, which impacts their ability to receive extra credit or other privileges in many classes, and also might require them to attend Saturday school. Additionally, students with unexcused absences receive automatic zeroes for tests that they miss. To put it bluntly, this is not logical: truancy holds the exact same penalty as missing school time for a family trip.

While administrators might cite concerns over excusing family trips, primarily criticizing a lack of student instruction because of missed time, these worries can be easily assuaged. It does not take much effort for a student to talk to a teacher and plan ahead of time with that teacher any assignments that they will be missing.

Otherwise, the teacher should hold the student accountable at the instructor’s discretion. Admittedly, this plan calls for student initiative and requires work to be completed on students’ personal time. But does that not already happen with students who miss school because of illnesses?

What The Campanile recommends is a new policy, which would allow students to miss up to four days of school per year for family reasons, as long as the students coordinated with teachers ahead of time to make up assignments and exams.

Four days is not enough time to significantly impact a student’s learning — they would not miss the majority of instruction for a unit in any subject — but it is enough time for families to work with in order to plan trips. It is not right to force families to not take vacations because even a single day of school might be missed. Students already circumvent current administration attendance policies by feigning illnesses, and thus not having to suffer any consequences.

With a new plan in place, the need for lying would be eliminated, families and students would not have to be inconvenienced and students would still receive the necessary instruction time.

To be frank, the current policy is nothing short of a bureaucratic headache. For the good of the students and the school community, The Campanile urges administration to consider our proposal.

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One Response

  1. Trinity Klein

    The state of California’s Educational Code determines what is defined as an “excused” or “unexcused” absence- see section 48205. Schools have zero flexibility in how they code reasons for reported absences, as all absences are then reported to the state on a regular basis. Your recommendation of four “excused” absences for family reasons is literally against state law. Probably a good idea to research a little bit more before laying this at the administration’s feet. You would need to appeal to the California Department of Education. Just sayin’.

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