Parents, Student Denounce New School District Attendance Policy
More than a dozen parents on Monday denounced the Natrona County School District's new attendance policy as unreasonable.
The district approved the new policy in June to respond to a graduation rate that has lagged behind the rest of the state.
Missing class negatively affects academic performance and the policy is intended to prepare students for the real world in which adults are expected to be on time for their jobs and commitments, trustees said then.
But parents said the new policy has had the unintended consequences of penalizing students with illnesses and students who competed in nontraditional high school sports.
One student spoke, too.
Kelly Walsh High School Senior Carter Dunn said he suffers from clinical depression and anxiety attacks, and he sometimes needs to leave school when a panic attack happens.
Parents added they've encountered attitudes -- "there are parents that just don't care" -- among some administrators and staff that they're trying to have their children excused for frivolous reasons.
The board met at the new Pathways Innovation Center-Roosevelt School after a building dedication and ribbon-cutting, executive session, work session and regular meeting.
Ironically, the board was about 15 minutes late for its own work session. Christopherson said the trustees were late because they were having dinner during an executive session and they couldn't speak when students in a cooking class were bringing them their meals.
The lateness wasn't lost on many of the angry parents.
During the public comment period of the meeting, parents said the policy could result in interventions with school administrators and the possibility of students being suspended or expelled.
For example, parent Kelsey Phillips said the policy requiring a note from a doctor for an excused absence for an illness needs more flexibility.
"Most infections that kids get are self-limiting infections, meaning that you don't need to go to the doctor for them," said Phillips, who has a doctorate in microbiology. "Going to the doctor incurs a cost for the parent.
Another parent, Stephanie Bentley, said her husband recently lost his job and with it their health insurance. Bentley told the board that she won't spend $250 for a doctor's visit for a note for an excused absence.
Phillips also said school trustees, who are parents themselves, could have done a better job to communicate a message of encouragement about attendance.
"So instead of giving incentives for great attendance and recognize the efforts that parents put forward, it seemed that there was more emphasis put on disincentives," she said.
At the end of the meeting, trustees said they will form a committee with parents to fix the policy, its interpretation and its implementation.