Should Absences Matter More than Grades?

Charlotte McGuinness, Entertainment Editor

Attendance rules for school are district and state policy but, deemed too strict by many students and teachers. A student can only miss six days of school each semester unless they have a medical excuse or a death in the family. After exceeding six absences, a student has to bring in those select excuses and fill out competency based credit or attend makeup school for $20.

Rock Hill School District Attendance Coordinator, Sally W. Wilson, explained that South Carolina State Law requires the district to show a certain amount of seat time for each student to receive one Carnegie unit of credit for each course.

Wilson stated, “I feel the benefits of good/regular school attendance and how it truly benefits and teaches students is more likely appreciated by students and have a better understanding when they graduate from High School, enter the workforce or go to college”.

As a district employee, Wilson contributes that she agrees with the policy as it helps students stay involved in class.

Many students miss seven or more classes in one semester because of personal and medical excuses. Although a doctor’s note can excuse a student, if a student is not sick enough to go to the doctor but too sick to go to school, they receive an unexcused absence. Excused absences can only be obtained with an obituary, doctor’s note, or an academic field trip/tour sheet.

Geography and Introduction to Psychology 101 teacher, Mrs. Kimberly Yarbrough disagreed with the attendance policy. Yarbrough has been a teacher at South Pointe for many years and has had two children graduate from the school. She expressed that she thought students should get at least 10 unexcused absences a semester because six days is too few if you do not want children coming to school sick or contagious.

Senior and Student Body President Maddie Smith agreed with Yarbrough.

“I think the absence policy is good in theory but does not provide the proper leniency for unique needs of each student. I do not believe that all students should be held to the same standard because some go through mental or physical illness, loss of loved ones, and numerous other things which impact them all differently. I do think that students should be required to come to school as much as they possibly can, but sometimes that is not possible and the policy in place now does not require much wiggle room,” said Smith.

The absence policy does not give leniency when it comes to family members in the hospital, minor illness, or trips planned, only death and doctor appointments. If a student’s family member was admitted to the hospital, the student has to deal with an unexcused absence or visit after school hours whether it is dire or not.

This policy does not give time for students to learn to grieve after losing a loved one, as an obituary only allows three consistent absences to be excused. Although South Pointe has unfortunately seen more loses than it should, the absence policy still only gives three bereavement days until it becomes an unexcused absence.

Many students still exceed the six unexcused absence and have to attend makeup school unless they have doctor excuses or an obituary for their exceeded days. Makeup school is $20 for every eight hours on select Saturdays at South Pointe. This not only costs students money but also takes time out of the school week to make up the unexcused absences. This policy is required whether a student has an A in the class or an F.

Competency based credit is allowed if a student has an excuse for every missed day after exceeding the sixth, passes their final exam with a 60 and passes the course with a 70. The requirements do not seem very difficult but having an excuse for every day you missed that exceeded six makes this option impossible for some students.

Not only does a student filing for competency based credit have to make each of their teachers sign a form saying they approve them for passing their class, but the principal, Dr. Marty Conner, also has to approve the student to be able to receive the academic credit. This not only makes bad use of a student’s time, but also the teachers and principal that has to fill out the form as well.

Many students have failed courses due to absences while they hold high A’s and B’s in the course. Obviously their absences has not affected their grades but yet they are still forced to prove they should get the credit for the class.

Senior, Kimora Blackmon failed a class due to absences her junior year yet still holds high grades and has been accepted into many universities. Her attendance should not represent her academic performance yet before she attended makeup school for 1.5 hours and $20, it did.

The attendance policy is seen as too strict and not fair to many cases at South Pointe High School by students and teachers. If you agree that the policy should become more lenient or reasonable, you can reach out to the South Carolina Department of Education at [email protected] to change the attendance policy.