Franklin County Schools Consider Tweak in Attendance Policy - FOX 21/27 WFXR Roanoke/WWCW Lynchburg News, Weather

Franklin County Schools Consider Tweak in Attendance Policy

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Franklin County school board chairman Ed Jamison said they finally figured out a way to get parents more involved.

"This was sort of the initial voyage," Jamison joked.

After hearing concerns from parents that the school system's attendance policy was inflexible and too stringent (for example, some parents felt punished for taking their kids to Disney World during the cheaper out-of-season months), the school board established a task force to look at changing the policy.

Parents were included in the task force, Jamison explained.

Earlier this summer, the school board adopted the task force recommendations of allowing parents to sign excuse notes when their children miss school.

But the school district's social workers may have uncovered an unintended consequence.

The Franklin County Student Assistance Specialists issued a report to the board last month explaining their fear that some parents may use the excuse policy to cover up problems at home.

The report cited specific examples of parents who signed excuses for more than a dozen absences for their children despite the fact social workers determined those parents were putting those children at risk with drug use in the home.

Using the current policy, it would be harder for social workers to uncover these types of cases, the report explained.

"It appears we need to tweak [the policy] a little bit," Jamison said.

Jamison said the full board will discuss changes at its upcoming regular meeting this month.

Jamison said any changes made will be "with the best interests of the children in mind."

In the report, social workers recommend to allow five unexcused absences before any letter is sent home or action taken by the school system.

The report recommends to define an excused absence as the death of an immediate family member, a doctor's note, or a court subpoena.