Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

October 18, 2013

'Common sense' asked for in attendance policy

CROSSVILLE — The Cumberland County Board of Education directed Director of Schools Donald Andrews to review its attendance policy and determine a "common sense" approach to attendance and questions of excused absences.

The direction came after a member of the community noted at the September meeting of the board, current policy does not allow for students to miss school for activities such as a national church conference. The policy no longer allows for work missed due to an unexcused absence to be made up.

Dan Schlafer, 9th District representative, noted he believed the policy allowed the principal some discretion in excusing an absence that was not for illness, a religious observance, or other specified reason.

"We do our students a disservice by dissuading them from attending faith-based, faith-related meetings which will only enhance their character, which we can't provide in the setting of a classroom," Schlafer said during the September meeting.

Andrews said he was concerned with the policy being applied inconsistently if left to principal discretion.

"If they have a question or they're nervous about it, they can bring it to me," Andrews said.

However, Andrews wants to further investigate the amount of discretion allowed by state law and if there would be any leeway permitted for opportunities that allow for unique educational experiences for students.

Schlafer said it was not right to ask students and parents to choose between missing these experiences and being dishonest — for example, saying the child was ill during the time missed.

The policy committee of the board has not yet been appointed, but the group is expected to take up this issue, as well as proposed changes to policies regarding foreign exchange students, in coming months.

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