By Krishna Shah, The Piedmont Highlander
As of this semester, the Piedmont High School administration began enforcing the 20 absences rule, stating that if a student has 20 or more excused absences in one quarter, their attendance can be reviewed by the school administration to determine whether the absences are a problem to the student or to the school.
Students are asked to do the same procedure that students who have unexcused absences have to do, which is write a letter, signed by the student’s parents, explaining the reason for their absences. Then they have a conversation and, depending on the circumstances, the administration puts the student on an attendance contract, saying that if the student starts slipping again, they will be ineligible for activities.
Assistant principal Anne Dolid said there is an exception though, where if students were sick or if they received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the administration will waive it.
“It totally took people by surprise,” junior Teddy Heafey said.
Heafey said he found out when his friend got a letter making him unable to play lacrosse. The friend had to clear the issue up with the attendance office because he had been sick.
“It had never been enforced before I got here, but we were looking at our truancy rates and our attendance rates and it was clear that there were many more students than we felt should be absent,” Dolid said.
Dolid said the administration started implementing this policy because of these reasons.
“I think the rule is completely justified as long as there are certain exceptions. If it's an excused absence and not just ditching class, then they should be allowed to participate in whatever they want,” sophomore Sasha Costello said.
Heafey said he does not think it is fair because they are excused absences.
Dolid said between 20 and 40 students have been affected so far in these past two quarters.
“Probably 60 percent of the students in this case, more than half, have legitimate reasons. They had the flu and they’re out for a week, and they didn’t have a doctor’s note because if they had a doctor’s note, they don’t get this letter,” Dolid said.
Dolid said there are also the students that just want to sleep in and the administration wants to send the message that this is not appropriate.
“Their job is to be here. So we’re hoping that by enforcing this, we’ll cut down on those types of instances and then student attendance will improve,” Dolid said.
Dolid said the purpose of the policy is to provide an opportunity for a check-in, to get more information about why the student is absent so the administration knows if there is something more they should do or if the student has to do more.
“I think that students feel like it’s a hoop to jump through, and it’s sort of like, ‘why am I being bothered with this?’” Dolid said. “But I think that they also are getting the message that they need to be at school and work well.”
Costello said it encourages students not to miss school, therefore benefiting the school district economically.
“I did not do a great job of publicizing it and letting people know that we were enforcing it even though it’s been in the book for many years,” Dolid said. “It’s never really been enforced and so that is definitely something that can be improved upon.”
Costello said she had no idea that this rule existed and thinks that most students do not know either.
“The rule would probably be more effective in encouraging people to come to school if it was known, so the administration should probably spread the word if they want the effect of it,” Costello said.
Krishna Shah is a junior and a staff writer for The Piedmont Highlander. She played tennis for PHS last fall.