Recommended changes in Bedford County School System's attendance policy are intended to fortify enforcement of school attendance, especially for students of legal age. Students age 18 and older do not fall under the state's compulsory attendance law.
The changes were discussed in a school board study session Tuesday night of last week. No official action was taken, but recommended changes to many of the policies will become agenda items for a board vote at the next regular meeting on April 19.
Suggestions include a section which states that any student in grades K-5 with five unexcused absences will be reported to the attendance supervisor, with a letter going home to parents.
At seven unexcused absences, the attendance supervisor will refer the student and parents to mediation with social workers. Parents of any student having accumulated 10 unexcused absences will be called to a Truancy Board hearing.
If approved, the new policy will accumulate five unexcused tardies and early checkouts into one unexcused absence.
"[Terry Looper, student services supervisor] says we are having a major, major problem with tardies," said Suzanne Alexander, board secretary, who noted that a measure addressing the issue is before the state legislature.
The issue exists not just in secondary schools, but in the elementary grades as well. Dr. Ray Butrum, superintendent, cited examples of parents who say they can't get their students to school on time.
"What happens when the parent lets that child be tardy for 100 days? [If] nothing can be done, then the parent is going to continue to do that."
For secondary school attendance the changes are roughly the same, with 10 unexcused absences resulting in a petition from juvenile court being filed against the student or a* warrant filed against the parent and/or guardian.
Regarding make-up work, the proposal strikes the phrase "at the teacher's discretion," and adds, "It is the responsibility of the student to check with all of his/her teachers to obtain missed assignments."
Out-of-school suspensions are considered unexcused absences.
The policy also adds provisions regarding driver's license revocation, as allowed by state law. Any student age 15 or older who becomes academically deficient or deficient in attendance shall be reported to the state Department of Safety.
Academic deficiency is defined as not receiving passing grades in at least three full unit subjects or their equivalency at the end of the semester grading.
A deficiency in attendance occurs when a student drops out of school or has 10 consecutive or 15 days total unexcused absences.