This Tuesday, Oct. 27 @ Deerfield Elementary (4353 West Harvey Blvd, Cedar Hills), the Board Study Session will include a discussion with Juvenile Court Judge Bazelle about the current attendance policy. The Study Session begins at 4:00pm, and the Judge will be there at 4:30 pm.
The regular board meeting with public comment will take place at 6:00 pm.
Why should you care? One major issue that keeps coming up from parents and taxpayers is attendance. I have had many complaints about the strictness of our former policies, and the inconsistencies of the application of our current policy. Some parents have sent their kids to a different school specifically because of the harshness of some of the attendance policies. I have not had anyone complain that our attendance policies are too lax...until now.
State Law allows certain things as valid excuses: illness, death in the family, etc. It also allows "any other excuse established as valid by a local school board, local charter board, or school district." In our district, our policy says, "The Alpine School District Board of Education has determined that the parent or legal guardian of a student can excuse an absence for reasons they deem necessary."
At our board meeting on Sep. 22, Board Member Taylor reported that in a meeting with Judge Noonan (who oversees that Orem area), concerns were raised that our policy is working great for about 95% of our students, but there are 5% that they can't help because our policy is too lenient. (To listen to the audio, go to http://board.alpineschools.org/2015/09/18/september-22-2015-board-meeting/, click on 'Additional Media', and the second audio file is the Board Meeting. The report begins about 1 hour into the meeting.)
While I have found that our district policy is not being implemented as stated, that is more of an internal issue. However, at the end of the day, we passed the attendance policy in order to support parental rights. We do no one a service when we try to insert ourselves into the realm of the family, prematurely, where we actually do not belong.
In other states where there has been no distinguishing between excused absences and truancy, many children have become 'collateral damage' to a system that is hoping to make sure that increased attendance is the ultimate good. But how many innocent parents and children will be harmed in the process? http://www.nebraskafamilyforum.org/2011/12/chambers-family-in-bed-sick-at-school.html
The question I have is whether we can find a non-judicial way to help those families that may need that help, without jeopardizing the rights of the rest of our families. Those who find themselves in extreme circumstances do not need the added concern of the County Attorney looking for reasons why they are unfit, if the only indicator is attendance. Attendance alone, if excused by parents, is insufficient to predict negative consequences for kids in school or later life (current internet talking points notwithstanding.)
At the end of the day, how many good families and how many parental rights are we willing to sacrifice? Do we start with the premise that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, unless they have children in our school system? I think the same standard needs to apply. Can you imagine the pain and heartache in your family if you were threatened with the loss of custody of a child? Do you believe that only the 'bad parents' are possibly at risk? The evidence shows otherwise.
Justice Dallin H. Oaks, ruled, "Family autonomy helps to assure the diversity characteristic of a free society. There is no surer way to preserve pluralism than to allow parents maximum latitude in rearing their own children."
Parents have the fundamental right to manage their children, including their education. Until that parent has violated that trust (and it has been proven, with evidence), the state does not get 'veto' power over parents. The laws come from We, the People, not The State. We either value parental rights and support them, or we subject ourselves to the power of the State. This is an important discussion for us to have. Please join me on Tuesday!