Outdated school attendance policy (Letter to the Editor)
As a parent of children in the Montclair school system, I have become aware of an apparently pre-pandemic, outdated attendance policy that is thrust upon local school districts by the state.
Parents are encouraged to keep their children home when the children are sick, to avoid transmitting their illness to others in the school. In the era of COVID, this has become even more important.
However, a contradictory state policy does not allow an excused absence for sickness, even with a doctor’s note! My son had the flu this fall and missed a week of school. (He had just gotten a flu shot but was infected too soon after to have been protected.) In addition to two or three previous sick days that he had, we are now getting threatening letters that he may be left back if there are further absences.
During his week of absence, my son was taken to the doctor – twice – and positively diagnosed with influenza. Even with a doctor's note, his absence was not excused, and the threatening letters have followed.
This state policy could even endanger the health of our children, as it may motivate some parents to have their children attend school when they are sick because the state does not allow excused absences for sickness. This is bad for those attending school, and bad for the sick student, who needs to rest and heal.
This outdated and harmful policy has got to change. Our local school administrators and the Board of Education have told me they have no authority to update this noxious policy, nor to interpret the policy in a more relaxed manner.
Parents and other stakeholders need to urge the state Board of Education to amend this outdated policy. I have written a letter; others should as well. Their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sickness documented with a physician's letter should become a valid excused absence, to eliminate the contradictory messaging, to prevent possible unjust punishment to students and to protect the public health.