Wednesday, September 1, 2010 Written by Nathan Stubbs
Recently revised policies on students’ make-up work for unexcused absences and suspensions has the Lafayette Parish School Board concerned about double standards.
At the last school board meeting on Aug. 18, Nelda Broussard, Lafayette Parish School System’s director of census, student behavior and health services, addressed the board in an attempt to clear up growing confusion regarding the school system’s recently revised attendance policies. However, most board members seemed to walk out of the meeting even more perplexed about the policy. The issue involves several changes that have recently been enacted — from the state Legislature, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Lafayette Parish School Board itself.
Earlier this year, BESE enacted new state attendance requirements, increasing to 167 the minimum number of days students are required to be in attendance at school in order to pass. Previously, high school students were required to attend 162 days and elementary students 160 days. In response, the LPSS also adjusted its attendance policy, voting at its July 21 meeting to adopt new regulations that were supposed to correspond with state policy. In trying to address the issue of students who missed too many days to pass yet continued to make up work under the impression that they would receive full credit, the school system’s new policy states that “students may not complete make-up work for unexcused absences.”
For many, this seemed to run counter to another new state policy — this one enacted by the state Legislature at the request of the Jindal administration — that students who miss school due to suspension be required to make up lost work and be given at least partial credit for it.
“I just have a problem,” board member Greg Awbrey announced at the meeting. “If I have a child that wakes up ill, I keep them home for two days, and they go back to school. Well, we didn’t go to the doctor. So it’s an unexcused absence. That child’s right to make up work is less than someone that has a discipline issue. I have a monstrous problem with that.”
The parish student handbook states that an excused absense requires a doctor’s note. But according to Broussard, there is also such thing as a “temporarily excused absence” — another state designation. In the event a student misses two or fewer days and brings in a note from his parent or legal guardian, the student will be excused and allowed to make up work. A problem arises when a student misses more than two days or becomes habitually absent. In that case, the school can then move to require a doctor’s note for the student to be excused from school.
In order to avoid any uneven disciplinary actions, Broussard has been directed to come back before the board this week with clarification on documentation required for all excused absences so the board can examine whether any changes should be made.
“I think we’re making a huge mistake if we’re going to treat an unexcused absence more severely than a suspension,” Awbrey says. “There’s something wrong with that.”
Superintendent Burnell Lemoine agrees that the issue warrants further study. “Graduation rates and all these things factor into this,” he says. “So I think it’s important that we look and see how we can best address this situation.”
JUNE 19 Former Saint Steve Gleason, who is paralyzed by ALS, released a statement Tuesday in response to the Atlanta radio station's skit making fun of him and the disease, this Picayune post reports. What did he say? He said he'd accepted the apology of the DJs who did it, notes that at least the incident has got people talking about ALS, and asks anyone who is burning to take action about it to do so -- by helping him fight ALS.
JUNE 19 Blogger Ian McGibboney takes a look at the Gleason incident in this post. He makes a good argument about the difference between having free speech and being free from consequences for your speech (which none of us is). He also admits that many of us got upset before we listened to the skit -- but lets us know that the reality is far worse than we can imagine. It was the incredibly bad judgment, even more than the actual speech, that probably got those DJs fired, he opines.
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JUNE 19 Lamar Parmentel read Gov. Jindal's post on Politico, but thinks it was so dumb it probably was published in the wrong paper. This post by Lamar on the Daily Kingfish opines that possibly Jindal's post was destined for the Onion -- because the governor couldn't possibly be serious here. If you listen closely, you can hear the staff of the Kingfish giggling.
JUNE 19 Blogger Robert Mann posts from Turkey, a country he has visited several times in the past few years. Mann gives an interesting overview of the current political and societal climate of the country, which -- if you're living under a rock and don't know -- is experiencing protests and turmoil these days. Mann promises to post as much as he can during his trip, which should be fascinating reading.
JUNE 19 Blogger CB Forgotston says the legislature is keeping the vicious cycle going with its funding of new buildings for the community college/technical college system. Universities across the state need maintenance and improvement on existing buildings, and the solution is to build new buildings at other schools? By the time the bonds are paid off, those buildings will be falling down, too, CB says.
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He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.