Should Absence Penalties Change?


Autumn McGee, Reporter

I’ve missed a few days throughout my years at Leyden, and here’s the irony I’ve discovered.  As involvement within the Leyden community increases, school attendance decreases. Students who are engaged in the school find themselves on field trips and involved in leadership conferences. They’re motivated to succeed, which oddly pulls them from classes. These absences are excused, but another absence that highlights the same involvement and motivation is not currently excused: the college visit.

Because students who visit colleges are exploring opportunities and being motivated learners, they should not be punished via an unexcused absence for missing school days. Whether students are going on an out-of-state college visit or checking out a local junior college, students shouldn’t receive a penalty for having the chance to expand their knowledge about what comes next. Since I’m being affected by this policy as well as many people that I know, I want to bring positive change to it.

As of now, college visits are considered unexcused absences. College visits have an educational purpose, so they should be looked at that way by school policy. Unexcused absences can lead to disciplinary meetings or consequences and can take away a person’s chances of achieving the Excellence Award.

Senior Riya Desai is very involved inside and outside of school, and this could come into conflict with her chance to receive the Excellence Award. She is one of many who support the chance to miss school for educational purposes without a penalty. Missing school for an educational opportunity means “giving students another medium to further their education,” Desai says. Students are still expanding their minds and learning new things, but they are doing it in a different way. That’s similar enough to attending school, right?

Physics teacher Mark Reeves believes that with the technology we have today, students who are motivated to succeed are able to miss school for a college visit without getting behind on their work. Reeves isn’t discouraging people from coming to class as there is a “hidden curriculum” unique to being in class: learning communication, developing values and beliefs, and socializing. But even if a student is missing school for a college visit, they are still being exposed to a similar hidden curriculum. They’re likely talking to counselors, visiting classes, and getting a sense of the college’s values and social atmosphere. So the attendance policy should allow these types of absences to be “excused” without penalty.

My personal experiences visiting colleges demonstrate an educational purpose. By going on these visits, I’ve learned more about that specific college and what it would take to attend that school. I can then take what I learned and make the right decision for myself. Because I received a penalty for these days, I was forced to be more aware of any other absences that I might have in the future that would count against me. This is mainly because I have been working toward the Excellence Award. For those who aren’t familiar with this notable award, there are various components that are needed to receive it. Regarding attendance to school, students would have to maintain a 95% attendance rate. The current attendance policy works pretty well, but it needs some adjustments according to Principal Jason Markey. “We are looking at the possibility of expanding our policy to allow for college visits that wouldn’t count against you the same way that it does now,” he said. My hope is that the school forges ahead and makes this decision. Students would be able to visit their dream schools without having to worry about receiving a penalty.

Since the decision to explore post-secondary options is encouraged by the Leyden community, this is a demonstration of a “commitment to excellence” and will benefit students in many ways.

I understand that limitless visits would pose a problem, so I’d suggest changing the attendance policy to allow at least four college visits throughout your years at Leyden. This would help some students achieve the Excellence Award in a more reasonable way and allow students to make multiple visits. The current absence policy clearly triggers some negative responses from those in the Leyden community who are most involved, including myself. Simple changes can make even the smallest difference in the motivation of students who want to expand their knowledge outside of the school environment.