Finding balance: Education laws vs. health, safety

By Courtney Lane - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

GILMER, TX (KLTV) - We're only at the start of the school year but already a lot of East Texas students are getting poor attendance records - all because they're out sick with the flu. It's a conflict between keeping kids healthy and safe and abiding by education laws.

Scott Cook's son has missed nine school days this year because he keeps catching a virus.

We've all heard health experts say stay home until your fever is broken so you're not spreading the virus. But now, Union Hill ISD has sent Cook a poor attendance notice. They say his 7th grader must now make-up that time in Saturday schools.

"It just puts parents in a situation where we've either got to send them to school sick or we've have to deal with punishing our children with going to Saturday school," said Cook. "He's already going to make up all the work that he's missed this week."

We left messages for Union Hill's superintendent, but those calls were not returned. But, the Texas Education Agency says if a student is sick, it's usually excused.

"Districts don't have to make it an excused absence, but it's unusual for it not to count that way," said Debbie Ratcliffe.

"I called them to find out what was going on and why they were sending me a letter about his school days because he's excused," said Cook. "And then, the principal explained to me that it didn't matter whether he was excused or not."

The TEA says in order to get course credit, students do have to attend at least 90% of the time. Ratcliffe says that translates to about 10 days a student can miss. Tyler ISD says they're not requiring Saturday school for excused absences. But, technically, the TEA says each district decides their own policy.

"A number of districts are re-thinking their absence policy this year because students are out so many days with this flu so I think we may see that as the year progresses," said Ratcliffe.

The TEA says if parents like scott feel they're being treated unfairly, there may be an appeal process to the local school board. They say those rules should be in your student's handbook.

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