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Johnston County parent questions school attendance policy

Posted November 4, 2009

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— In a season of H1N1 and seasonal flu, doctors are urging everyone to stay home if they are sick. The potential absence of a couple of days has Johnston County mom Laurie Layton concerned.

A school board policy threatens to fail any student if he or she is absent for several days.

Layton’s son is a sixth-grader at Riverwood Middle School at 204 Athletic Club Blvd. in Clayton. The 11-year-old recently missed five days of school because of the flu.

“We had a note for his absences for the time, as well as a note that said he could not return until he was without a fever for 24 hours,” Layton said.

Layton said her son kept up with his school work from home, and took make-up tests. However, shortly after her son returned to classes, Layton received a letter from the school system saying her son would fail his courses because of excessive absences.

“He was extremely upset,” Layton said. “I was shocked. I was angry. My son is a straight-A student.”

school bus School attendance policy called into question

The school board’s policy states “students must be present for a minimum of 91 percent of all class meetings to receive credit for a course. If absences from class exceed four per nine weeks, eight per semester or 16 per year, the maximum grade a student may receive for the grading period is F or 69, regardless of the reasons for the absences.”

The policy goes on to state that a principal may waive the requirement in "extremely unusual circumstances."

“I absolutely feel like he's being punished for being sick,” Layton said Wednesday of the policy.

After expressing her problems with the policy, she said she was told her son would be allowed to earn his grades back if he attended six tutoring sessions.

Layton said she worries Johnston County is sending the wrong message during an active flu year.

“We have a flu pandemic going on and you're encouraging kids to go to school sick,” she said. “I'm not sure if I wouldn't send my kid to school sick, just so we don't have to go through any of this again.”

Riverwood's principal, Phil Lee, said Wednesday afternoon that he was not aware of students being forced to take make-up tutoring sessions due to flu-related absences. He plans to look into the matter, and said the school does make exceptions for students who are sick.

Futhermore, if a principal decides not to waive the attendance requirement; the decision can be appealed in accordance with the student and parent grievance policy.

In neighboring Wake County, the schools’ attendance policy considers excessive absences to be more than 20 days in middle school and is flexible in illness situations, according to Michael Evans, a spokesman for Wake County schools.

“So if your child is sick, don't worry about keeping them out of school. If under medical attention, bring a doctor's note,” Evans said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Crazy Mom Nov 5, 2009

    As I type this, I am listening to a message from the superintendent of Johnston County Schools. He is reiterating that NO STUDENT has received a failing grade because of attendance issues that are health related.

    As a parent of a student who was in this situation several years ago, I know this as a fact. My son was out sick for 2 weeks and we made the school and the principal aware. We received a letter per county policy and I did the MOST LOGICAL thing, calling the school to speak to the principal. My principal waived this and my son proceeded on to the next grade with no failing grades.

    I am saddened by the fact that this mom decided to go to the media instead of the school. My son attends RMS as well and I know that the administration is very available to parents. One phone call to the data manager, the assistant principal, the principal or even the school social worker would have saved HER the embarrassment of this. I think that this mom is completely out of line!

  • whatusay Nov 5, 2009

    And people wonder why parents do not have any comfidence in our school leadership!!

  • TheBellTollsForThee Nov 5, 2009

    OK, so my first post never made it to the board.

    I was trying to state that the school system is not asking parents to send sick kids to school. The article states that the student was asked to attend tutoring sessions to make up missed time at school. Schools have attendance policies for a reason - because if they did not, then students would be absent all the time.

    Attending tutoring sessions to make up missed time makes sense to me. I am not saying that the student did this, but work/tests done at home is not proof-positive that the student learned the material due to the fact that the student could have used notes/textbook on the work. Through tutoring sessions, the teacher could ascertain whether or not the student actually does know the material.

    The school system is not making parents send sick kids to school nor are they out to fail students. They are just asking students to make up missed time that is over four days in a quarter.

  • OHn8tive Nov 5, 2009

    1. No, we do NOT want your child there sick, spreading it to everyone. Fever-free for 24 hours, WITHOUT medication!
    2. The letters are computer generated. It takes a quick phone call to get cleared up, but please be polite. Don't call screaming or threatening.
    3. I am sure that the program that sends the letter does not realize that the flu is going around, so there is no way to prevent it from being generated. Would you rather they pay a person to send out the letters, taking the money from the classrooms? Didn't think so.
    4. For those of you that have all the answers, please go work at your local school for a few days and then tell everyone how you can do it better. That invitation also goes on to legislators. They should spend a week in schools and THEN tell a teacher they will be getting less money for supplies, less funding for educational programs, and have to work with more students than ever before.

  • TheBellTollsForThee Nov 5, 2009

    My last post got sent a little early...I wanted to finish with I was not stating that the student did this, just why tutoring sessions may be necessary.

  • wildcat Nov 5, 2009

    I can't believe that the school system wants us to send our children to school sick so we can spread it even more!

    The school board is not thinking. But if they do get the flu, most likely they will rethink their decision.

  • wildcat Nov 5, 2009

    A school board policy threatens

    Does this particular school board have children, grand-children, neices, cousins or nephews? If so they would certainly know.

  • wildcat Nov 5, 2009

    A school board policy threatens to fail any student if he or she is absent for several days.

    The school board should wake up and realize what is going on in the world. No student should be failed because they were sick with the flu at home. The responsible parent should first call the school and say why the student will not be attending, and when the student returns, send a note that is date and the reason for being out of school. I don't think no one wants to spread any germs.

  • sondrajarvis Nov 5, 2009

    I believe there should be some forgiveness, but the one thing to remember. Most doctor's offices aren't seeing people that already have fever because "there isn't anything they can do"... so getting a doctor's note isn't super easy either.

    My son has been out sick since Tuesday (ran a low grade fever Tues and part of Wed). Hopefully he will go back tomorrow. I didn't take him to the doctor because there is nothing that they can do for him and he would just sit in a waiting room with a lot of other kids passing around more germs.

  • aprilsrouse Nov 5, 2009

    I can't believe that the school system wants us to send our children to school sick so we can spread it even more! That is basically what they are saying if they are willing to fail a straight A student because they were sick. I'm glad the parent went to WRAL so that others can find out about this before they get caught up in the same problem. Of course knowing about it means that they're probably going to send their children to school sick, huh? Well, unless the school system wants all the children to pass around the flu and/or H1N1 than they need to address the situation instead of punishing children for something they can not control!!