Tri-City Ledger -

By Joe Thomas
Ledger Editor 

Attendance highlights last weeks of school

Principals say chronic absences harm students and the schools


March 21, 2019

With about eight weeks left in the school year, Flomaton Elementary School Principal George Brown and Flomaton High School Principal Scott Hammond are stressing the need for students to be at school.

Excessive absences hurt the students, hurt the school and could have criminal implications for parents in certain instances.

Schools lose points on the state report cards when a student misses 15 days, whether those absences are excused or unexcused. Both principals want A's for their schools and they'd hate to lose a letter grade due to excessive absences.

“I can handle not making an A because of test scores,” Brown said. “Not because of absences.”

Hammond said heading into the final weeks of the year, 11 percent of his students (51) have already missed more than 15 days. Brown also said about 11 percent of the elementary students (44) have missed more than 15 days and so there have been 920 absent days for students.

They both said putting the school report card aside, students can't learn if they are not in school. Students checking out before 11:30 a.m. are counted as absent, after 11:30 a.m. they are technically counted present but they are still missing class time.

“Being at school is the key,” Brown said.

They both said they understand sickness and they don't want sick students coming to school.

“One of my children has missed nine days, but he was sick,” Brown said. “But being in school is the key. Sick is sick. If they are sick for 15 days, so be it, but not for going on vacation.”

Both principals encourage parents to check with their respective schools to see how many days their child has missed. The elementary school can be reached at 296-3991 and the high school can be reached at 296-2627. That information can also be accessed on line with the parents' password.

The principals also said they are having problems with late check-ins and said if that occurs to someone not old enough to drive, it falls back on the parents.

“They are not setting a good example,” Brown said. “If they're late to elementary school, they'll be late to high school and then they will be late to work.”

“We are teaching them to be better adults,” Brown said.

“We have about 35 days of school left and we need your children in school if you want your school and your child to be the best,” Hammond said. “I want them to be good parents and good citizens. I don't want them to lose a job because they are always late or absent.”

Parents can also be held criminally liable if a student racks up seven or more unexcused absences. Under the student code of conduct parents must explain, in writing, the reason for an absence no later than three days following the student's return to school.

A student with seven unexcused absences in a school year is deemed truant.

Amy Cabanis, who served as the Escambia County School System's truancy officer for four and a half years, said in 2006 the Alabama code made it real clear that a petition may be filed with the court on any student and/or parent if the student has seven unexcused absences.

Whether it's the parent or the students is up to the judgement of the school system.

“A second grader is not in control over whether he or she goes to school, so we'd file against the parent,” Cabanis said. “We try to use wise judgement.”

She noted state law requires all persons between the ages of 6 and 17 to be in school.

She said normally when a student reaches that seventh unexcused absence a truancy officer will go to the school and meet with the parent and the student.

“We want to help,” Cabanis said.

She said if parents don't show up for those school conferences, there will be a house visit.

If the truancy officer is not satisfied a petition can be filed in juvenile court and a warrant for arrest will be issued. It's a misdemeanor with a fine of not more than $500 and the student or parent can be sentenced to jail for 12 months of hard labor.

“That has happened,” she said.

Like Hammond and Brown, Cabanis said the goal is to get students to go to school.

“If they are not there, we can't teach them,” she said.


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