A much-talked about new attendance policy was reviewed by the Cumberland County Board of Education policy committee yesterday and once again will head to the school board for their consideration. The proposed revision comes after a new law went into effect in the state regarding attendance. If accepted by the school board, the number of excused absences would drop from 10 days per school year to six. According to the attendance policy, an excused absence is for one of the following:
- personal illness
- illness of immediate family member
- death in family
- extreme weather conditions
- religious observances
- college visits
- school-sponsored or school endorsed activities
- summons, subpoena or court order
- Circumstances which in the judgment of the principal creates emergencies over which the student has no control
- other absences as pre-approved by the principal, based on appropriate documentation at least 10 school days prior to day(s) to be missed
- If a student is exempt from final exams per board policy, the absence on the day of the exam is excused
- driver’s license/permit appointments will be excused with proof of appointment.
Tardies including early dismissal for any reason other than the excuses listed will be considered unexcused. The excused absence would also allow the student to make up any assignments missed. According to the Cumberland County School System truancy-intervention plan, a warning letter is sent to parents after a student has missed three days, whether excused or not. Officials say the warning letter is just a courtesy to inform parents or guardians of the missed days by the student. On a fourth unexcused day per school year, the student and parents must meet with a school counselor and teachers. Upon a fifth unexcused absence, the student is referred to juvenile court and must appear before the juvenile-court judge with their parents. Also according to the policy, any student with even one unexcused absence is not eligible to be exempt from an exam. Officials say some Tennessee counties are dropping their excused-absences numbers even lower than what Cumberland County is proposing, to come into compliance with state law. The policy also states that more than 10 consecutive or 15 unexcused absences by a student during any semester will render a student ineligible to retain a driver’s permit or license, or to obtain it of age. In order to qualify for reclaiming a driver’s permit or license, the student must earn a passing grade in at least three full unit subjects or their equivalency at the conclusion of a subsequent grading period. Students with more than five unexcused absences will have the opportunity to appeal in an attendance hearing committee appointed by the school principal. The appeal must be heard no later than 10 school days after the request for appeal is received by the principal. The school board may consider the approval of the new attendance policy at their upcoming meeting on April 26, 2018.