RANT: Attendance Policies in Kentucky’s Russell County School District

Today was an interesting day. I woke up late (my little alarm clock is still MIA from the trip to Amy’s for the birth event). And, I stayed up too late last night working. So, the kids were 10 minutes too late to catch the bus. (They catch the bus at 5:35 a.m.)

I called Wayne to tell him that I’d need the car a.s.a.p. to take them to the school, which is 45+ minutes away from where we live. Since Wayne works nights, and gets off work at 7:00 a.m. and it takes him 45 minutes to drive home, it takes awhile to deliver the kids to school. At 9:00 a.m. I managed to get Alexzandria to the elementary school. I asked about the attendance policy since it had changed this year and since the student handbook section on attendance was not in agreement with the “handout” received on attendance at the beginning of the year (both were sent home the same day).

Apparently, unlike most parents, I actually read that thing every year before signing the sheet saying I’ve read it and agree to it. Granted, this year, due to typos, misspellings and mutually exclusive clauses, I made some notes on WHAT I was agreeing to before turning it back in… but I read it.

So, I was a bit surprised when I was told that Alexzandria, having arrived at 9:00 a.m., would be counted absent for the entire day…

I don’t think I was nearly as surprised as the ladies at the front desk when I then turned to Alex and said “Well, honey, it looks like you will be staying with me today,” as I took her hand and we left.

I then went to the high school to see if it was worthwhile to drop off Derrick. The lady at the desk there explained that it wasn’t considered an “absence” anymore, that they counted it as an “event” — and yes, this was an “event” but would only be a 25% of the day “event” if he was signed in now. She also told me that I could use one of my parental excuses and it wouldn’t be counted against him.

I asked, since I needed to take him during regular business hours to get fitted for new glasses, if that would take a second of the three parental excuses I had for this year. She said yes, that any “event” would require a parental excuse. So, I told her I’d write the excuse (it has to be written) for today, and since we already had an “event” — I’d take him on to get his glasses. She told me to send it in with Derrick tomorrow. I insisted that I be able to hand it to her then, since I was standing right there. She handed me a Post-it note to write the excuse.

I then went to the Board of Education, in Jamestown, in search of a more specific explanation of the attendance policy to determine which of the schools had the ACTUAL attendance policy information correct.

The lady there was quite nice, but was new to the position and didn’t know which version I’d been given of the attendance policy was correct, but would look into it and have someone call me back.

I explained that Alex had been out of school one day already (when Derrick had his optometrist appointment last week) because his appointment was out of town and she was too young to stay by herself in the afternoon when the bus dropped her off. So she had to go with us. She asked if I’d talked with the school about this situation. I told her I had not. She said the principal was very understanding (and I personally really like the elementary school principal). But, as I explained to her, I don’t want any special allowances, I just want to know the ACTUAL policy on tardy and absences.

After the headaches last year, when the kids were counted absent when the bus didn’t even run on this road — I wasn’t interested in fighting those battles again this year.

Besides, if being an hour late means they are counted as absent, I’ll not bother to lose nearly two hours of my workday and around 70 miles of wear and tear on the car to deliver them to school.

I don’t see the advantage of this policy to the children, the parents or the school system (and I expressed my concerns). I told the nice lady at the Board of Education, that given my current understanding of the policy, I’d not transport the children to school again if they miss the bus, or if the bus doesn’t arrive. I see no advantage.

She reminded me that educating my daughter (and I’m assuming she meant my son too) was the advantage. Well, I’m not that impressed with Russell County Schools — although I must admit they are miles above the Casey County School System — and I told her I’d handle the education of my daughter at home for the day. Overall, I like the elementary school. I think they do a good job. I’m not so sure about the high school.

So, what did my 3rd grader do today, instead of attending school? She started and completed the book A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle– which, coincidentally, is on nearly a sixth grade level (5.8 to be exact). Then she provided me a brief oral report on the book when I returned from trying to get Derrick’s glasses. (That was another unsuccessful ordeal today, but I’ll spare you those details)

Somehow, I feel that Alex probably got more education today at home with her Poppa and eldest brother — in primarily independent study of an assigned work — than she would have managed to achieve in school.

And, for now, I will patiently await a report back on the attendance policy. In the meantime, I’ve contacted a friend who works with the state and she’s sending me the KRS information on the new statewide attendance mandates.

I didn’t want to get “political” or become entrenched in another local group, but the situation in the school is really starting to bother me… like the statement in the handbook for this year (on page six for those who have a copy) which says “The Principal shall apply the code uniformly and fairly to each student with partiality or discrimination.” This statement was among many others that were bothersome, misspelled or ethically questionable — not to mention a few that can only be described as inane.

A few examples:

Page nine (at the top) – In school suspension – one class period or any number of days as assigned
Page nine (at the bottom) – suspension shall not exceed ten days
–begs the question… which is the correct limit on suspension??’

Page eleven – drugs is spelled “drusg” and violation is spelled “violatin”
–makes me wonder who, if anyone, proofed this thing.

Page thirty-two – “Students who attend in the Russell County District have a right to be secure from any judicially determined unlawful search or seizure” and then later in that same paragraph… “It is lawful to search a student locker, desk, purse, automobile or other personal belongings…”
–things that make you go… Hmmmmmm…

Page thirty-three – “Any pupil, organization, or group of pupils who steals or willfully or wantonly destroys, defaces or damages the personal property of school personnel on school property, off school property or at school-sponsored activities shall be subject to suspension or expulsion from school.”

Immediately following on the same page (33) – “Any pupil, organization or group of pupils participating in activities who destroys, defaces, damages or steals the personal property of students shall be subject to disciplinary action.”
— is it just me or does it seem that the treatment is different for student possessions vs. school personnel possessions?

Page thirty-four — “The Russell County School District has the right to replace reasonable restrictions on the material you access or post through the system.”
— so they can restrict it if they first remove the restriction and then REPLACE it? Hmmmm.

Page thirty-eight – “Your right to free speech on the Internet is considered a limited forum, similar to the school newspaper, and therefore the Russell County School District may restrict your speech for valid educational reasons.”
–what, exactly, is a “valid educational reason” for restricting the right of free speech?

Page forty-two — “Students are not to bring any object on the bus over 13 inches in length”
— this is nuts… most bookbags are over this limit and some school-assigned books would be banned! Makes you wonder who’s brilliant idea this one was, doesn’t it? Any band members ride a bus? Few instruments would be allowed, methinks. Why have this rule?

Page forty-five – “Absences due to lice are unexcused and attendance laws for truancy will be enforced.”
Page sixty-two – Under “excused absences” – “Lice (limited to one day). If the student is sent home, he/she will be excused for the remainder of that day.”
–so if your child contracts lice in school… which rule shall be followed? Or does it depend on someone’s mood? Hmmm…

These represent just a FEW of the issues I marked and pondered when I read the manual. Maybe I’m being… dare I say it, after the lice mention above… nit-picky, but I would expect more from the student handbook. Sigh.

Oh well… that’s enough of a rant for today. I know I’m not above typos, especially in my blogs. Heck, I do them on the fly, on the road, and everywhere else. And, my blogs don’t always find their way to a spell check before going live. So, maybe I shouldn’t talk- but I’m not an educational organization. I’m not sending out policy manuals with these types of snafus.

I’m just blogging and ranting, praising and complaining. I’m just being casual. But, that’s enough for today – tomorrow, I may describe the superintendent’s handout sent to all parents last week. It was really impressive.

*clears throat* Ahem… until next time…