For now, Columbia County school and legal officials want to loosen the stringent standards of a new absenteeism policy.
In a Truancy Protocol Committee meeting Thursday, Columbia County school Superintendent Tommy Price asked the committee's members to relax the standards by which a student can miss school for the current school year.
"To draw that line in the sand so quickly I think is a mistake," he said. "We're more or less saying let's have a phase-in time this year."
Price said many parents and students had already planned special events requiring a student to miss school during the coming school year. Word of a new, tougher policy didn't reach many parents in time to alter those plans, he said.
The school board approved a new absenteeism policy in May, based on the recommendation of the protocol committee. A truant now is defined as "any child who has more than five days of absences during the school calendar year," according to the new policy. Violations of the new policy could mean reprimands for both students and their parents by juvenile judges.
Price said he worries parents will write fake sick notes to excuse their child from school for a special event.
"The idea (of the policy) is to make parents more responsible," Price said. "We're making the parents responsible, but we're penalizing the kids accidentally."
The policy does allow for students to be excused for a special event on a case-by-case basis, but the request must be reviewed by the principal and approved by the central office. Since school began, the central office has received more than 100 requests for a special-event absence, Associate Superintendent Charles Nagle said at the meeting.
"It's inundating," he said.
Some of the special events include family vacations and church trips, Nagle said.
Determining what constitutes a special event is part of the problem school officials need to deal with, Price said.
"With the grace period, it gives us a better idea of the special events requests we'll get and we can better define them," he said.
The committee approved the changes to the policy. Price said he will review the changes with the school board at the next meeting, which was Tuesday.
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