School district to revisit new attendance policy

— The use of “health appointment” excuses for tardiness by Cazenovia high school students dropped 43 percent during the fall 2012 semester, verifying the district’s fears that the “health late” excuse, as it is called, was being used to circumvent the code of conduct in order for students to be able to participate in extracurricular activities and not for “legal” tardiness.

This was the message conveyed to the Cazenovia Board of Education at its Feb. 25 meeting in response to parental objection and ire that the new policy, which began in September, was unfair to students and even unnecessary as a rule.

“The data really speaks for itself,” Cazenovia High School Principal Eric Schnabl told the board.

The district’s code of conduct states that the only acceptable reason for being late to school is a scheduled health appointment, required court appearance, college visit or extreme emergencies. If a student is late or misses school for a doctor’s appointment, he or she must provide a doctor’s note upon returning to school. Students who do not provide a doctor’s note are ineligible to participate in any extracurricular activities that day.

The high school administration enacted the new policy after reviewing years of data, discussions with stakeholder groups (teachers, parents and students) and approval by the school board in 2012. The reason for the change was the steady increase in the use of “health late” excuses as a loophole by students who had missed a part of the school day for an illegal reason but still wanted to participate in extracurricular activities. The new requirement of a doctor’s note closed that loophole, Schnabl said.

District parents, unhappy with the revised policy, began in October 2012 requesting a revocation of the change; and in January 2013 a group of parents presented a petition to the district expressing that sentiment, said District Superintendent Bob Dubik. The school board addressed the issue at its regular January meeting and continued the discussing at its Feb. 25 meeting.

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