Local News

Johnston County parent questions school attendance policy

Posted November 4, 2009 7:17 p.m. EST
Updated November 4, 2009 8:02 p.m. EST

— 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.”

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.