Last year the attendance/truant officer for The District retired. She was wonderful. If you had a concern about a kid's attendance (and we often have concerns) she was there checking into the situation and doing what she could to get it resolved. She understood that we needed these kids to be in our classrooms, not running the streets, playing sick, or sleeping in.
We've had some pretty nasty flu and strep outbreaks this year and we have the usual number of suspects who have spotty attendance for a myriad of reasons, so The New Attendance Officer has been by to talk with these kids and to let them know of the consequences, many of them legal, for not coming to school.
The first day she showed up I got a phone call from the front office, asking me to send one of my kids up for "a few minutes". No problem. We get calls like this all the time, and the kid is usually back in about five minutes and doesn't miss so much instruction that it can't be made up.
We were almost through with the class period when I realized that the child in question hadn't come back. What on earth? So I called up front only to be told that "it won't be a minute", and she'd be back. She did eventually come back to class, but she pretty much missed the entire day. This is not good for a kid who'd been out with the flu for nearly two weeks.
At lunch we were talking and realized that we had a few more kids who'd been called up front and ended up missing an entire class period. One of them, a kid who had been out for nearly two weeks, including a stint in a hospital, had been called up to the front office the first day she'd returned from her absence.
"Anyone know why they're calling these kids up?" Mrs. Social Studies asked.
"It's the new Attendance Officer," said Mrs. Eagle. "One of my kids showed me a brochure she gave him."
"You mean to tell me that the Attendance Officer is pulling kids out of class for an entire period to talk to them about missing school? That's insane!" I said.
"Yeah, it apparently now takes 45 minutes to tell a kid the consequences of poor attendance, instead of 5 minutes," said Mrs. Eagle.
This. Is. Crazy.
What logic is there in taking a kid out of class to talk about the kid not being in class?
As luck would have it, we had a team leader meeting that afternoon and found out that every single team leader had a complaint about kids missing entire class periods due to The Attendance Officer. The Principal was appalled as well. She said she'd talk to The New Attendance Officer, but commented that she couldn't guarantee it would do any good - those people from The District, after all, see the world differently from those of us in the trenches.
However, it may have done some good - or the complaints were flying fast and furious from every school in The District. The New Attendance Officer was back again last week and only kept kids for about ten minutes. Thank goodness.
And the weird thing? The kids she pulled from my team were all today.
P.S. - A reader commented on having consequences for absences like staying after in detention to make up missed work. Can't be done. Detention is only an option for behavior issues. We cannot write up a student for absences. The consequences for these students with a lot of absences are failing for the year, a court date with a judge, possible jail time for student and/or parent. I did have one kid my first year who ended up spending time in juvenile detention due to absences and his mother lost custody of the remaining children due to his absences as well. So there are consequences, but it isn't something the teacher determines.