Letter: Attendance policy at SHS an issue?

For the past twenty plus years I have worked for the Shelton Board of Education as the Outreach Worker. My primary duty in that position was to work with staff, students, and parents regarding school attendance/truancy. For many years, there was a solid policy in place at Shelton High School for student attendance, and it worked well.

Unfortunately, a few years back, that policy was removed. Since then, the attendance at SHS (and to an extent, the other schools in the district) has reached troubling proportions.

I attended a meeting on April 7, 2015 at central office with Board of Education members, the Superintendent of School, the Assistant Superintendent, and administrators. It was there that I voiced my concerns about this problem and it was explained to me that the State of Connecticut was no longer concerned about “seat time”. It seems that “seat time” is a euphemism for truancy.

I informed everyone at the meeting that from Sept. 1, 2014 to April 1, 2015 there were over 700 students with ten or more absences. The State of Connecticut considers any absence beyond ten days to be a case of truancy. A doctors’ note is required after the ninth day, retroactive to the first absence. Checking back again, the total from April 1, 2015 to June 1, 2015 had risen to 842 students with ten or more absences. The enrollment at SHS is about 1500 students. In my opinion, even allowing for legitimate illnesses, this is a disturbing number of absences. If 5% of those absences were in fact, legitimate, that would leave approximately 800 students who would be considered truant and referred to Juvenile Court.

In the last several years I have witnessed students being promoted and students graduating with extremely high numbers of absences. How can students with 40, 50, 60, even 70 days out of school be promoted or even allowed to graduate?

I ask that the Board of Education and the new Superintendent of Schools, along with staff, establish a viable attendance policy. If “80% of success is just showing up”, then this seems to be the foundation in which to build students with prosperous futures.