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School is a-ten-d out of ten

Drew Pettengill, Writer

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Ferris Bueller might have made skipping seem cool but the law would have to disagree.

Ever since students have been attending school it has been required by law to attend. But no law is without specifications, if a student is called out of school the law is not broken.

An article on the website “FindLaw” titled Vermont Compulsory Education Laws says truancy is defined as “any absence (by a student under the age of 18) for part or all of one or more days from school during which the school has NOT been notified of the legal cause of the absence by the parent/guardian of the absent student”

How do schools tell if one student is absent out of 700 or more students? It is the job of attendance monitors to record and report the attendance of students.

Jennifer Seymour is the new attendance monitor at BFA.  She has been working here since Feb., having come from City School.

“I keep track of attendance all day. Mostly in the morning it’s people who have called out sick, or parents who are calling to say their student is going to be late. After that it’s students who are going to be leaving early, or skipping class. I have to keep track of every single class to keep track of attendance,” Seymour said.

How does the punishment for truancy work at Bellows Free Academy?

“It doesn’t matter if it is excused or unexcused if there’s like ten in a row. The assistant principal will set up a meeting to just talk about a plan on what they want to do,” Seymour said.

An article on the website “ThoughtCo.” titled Daily School Attendance Matters written by Colette Bennett says; “More than 6.5 million students, or about 13 percent, miss three or more weeks of school, which is enough time to erode their achievement and threaten their chance of graduating. Nine out of 10 U.S. school districts experience some level of chronic absenteeism among students.”

The number of total students at BFA varies from year to year. Last year there were around 920 students. At the beginning of this year there were 859 students in total. Currently there are only 813 students enrolled.

At BFA, a student who is absent can be either be marked excused or unexcused.

“For excused it’s [usually] if parents call in or if the student is 18 they can call themselves out. If they’re unexcused and we haven’t heard from anybody in a  couple days we try to contact them,” Seymour said.

Along with absences comes tardies. The punishment for being tardy is severe at BFA.

“If you have too many tardies that are unexcused they end up getting a detention. It depends on the teacher you have. Some teachers might follow through and add them up and want you to make up time for them,” Seymour said.

In other states truancy is considered a consequence that a student’s parents have to pay.

An article in the Guardian titled Do US laws that punish parents for truancy keep their kids in school? written by Nadja Popovich said; “Depending on the state, students can be considered truant after one day or up to “10 half-days” of unexcused absence. Schools handle minor infractions through warning letters, parent-teacher conferences, and other means. But in 40 states and the District of Columbia, parents of repeat offenders can face fines – anywhere from $20 to $1,500, plus court fees – or short-term imprisonment.”

In Vermont while a parent might still have to pay a fine for the student’s truancy, there is no jail time.

Even though there is no severe legal punishment in Vermont against truancy, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to skip.

After all, Principal Rooney DID eventually catch up Bueller!

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