Horry County School District
United States of America

We, the undersigned, are requesting the Horry County School District revise its attendance procedures and policies. We believe that the implementation of an Attendance Intervention Plan (AIP) (mandating a doctor’s note for all subsequent absences in the next calendar year) after five “unexcused” absences within a school year is unreasonable.

We are concerned that the policy for “excused” vs. “unexcused” absences effectively eliminates the rights of the parent to make essential, responsible decisions for their children, and oversteps the school’s power to intervene with the responsible decision-making capabilities and basic rights of the family.

During the instructional year, our children spend a considerable amount of time in the trusted hands of our schools, which gives parents no option but to have faith in your ability and desire to provide care for our children. But, essentially, the school is sending the message that district policies come first, and our children’s well-being comes second.

Here are our concerns:

1. The current attendance policy procedures do not take into consideration children afflicted with minor fever-inducing illnesses or chronic health conditions. For example, a child may have a head cold with a low-grade fever, a nuisance cough and body aches. This child should rest at home to focus on his or her wellness, so that the illness doesn't worsen and further absences do not ensue. He/she does not need to be seen by a physician every single time. Likewise, if a young child has previously been diagnosed migraine headaches, diabetes, asthma, or chronic allergies, he or she will have medication on hand and need to stay home and rest quietly. The existing attendance policy procedures obligate the parent to disturb their resting child and bring them to sit in a crowded waiting room, exposing them to various more serious illnesses in order to get a piece of paper to present to the school. This is completely unreasonable, and should be unnecessary.

2. The current policy/procedures may put the well-being of sick and or well children at risk. It is also our understanding that children who vomit or have diarrhea at school are now not considered sick enough to go home (i.e. it will be deemed an unexcused absence) unless they have a fever. To mandate that the vomiting child must stay in school or risk an “unexcused” absence is absurd. Not only is it unkind and wasteful (as the child most likely will not be able to focus and learn while sick), but sending them back to class unnecessarily increases the risk of spreading the illness to other children. This is aggressively counter-intuitive.

3. The District’s current attendance procedures/policy puts undue financial strain on numerous families in our county. Approximately one quarter of Horry County residents do not have health insurance. Uninsured parents who feel their child’s sickness warrants a trip to the doctor, are taking their child to the doctor with the understanding that they will be required to pay medical bills out-of-pocket. What do we do when are children are deemed too “sick” to be at school according to district rules, yet are not sick enough to warrant a trip to the doctor (per the parent’s judgment)? Do we take our not-so-sick child to the doctor anyway, pay our $100 for the piece of paper that excuses our child’s absence, meanwhile getting medical “advice” we already knew (hydrate, rest) and exposing them to additional illnesses? These circumstances are only a handful of needlessly difficult choices we parents are repeatedly faced with during the school year, thanks to Horry County’s attendance rules.

4. The current policy and procedures do not take into account the multiple issues families face. No family is the same. No child is the same. It is unacceptable to squeeze all of us into a little box of rules. Some amount of understanding and flexibility is essential. Multiple families have a parent working out of state. It is crucial that these families spend time together when the opportunity presents itself. Sometimes this means pulling the kids out of school for three consecutive days to spend quality time together. There are also many children who are competitive athletes, participating in sports that require them to travel. This sometimes means missing a day of school, and also bringing along a school-aged sibling. Athletics are extremely important to the emotional and physical health of our children, and is not harmful to the education of the child that is usually present, and consistently doing well in school. Absences also occur when a family member who lives outside the county or state becomes very ill. Is it not acceptable that a family travel to spend time with that relative? The inflexibility of Horry County’s attendance policies puts attendance above the health and well-being of the children and their families.

5. The time frame of the policy and the time frame of the AIP are inconsistent. The attendance policy addresses the number of absences per single school year, yet the AIP is instituted for an entire calendar year. The AIP should only cover the remainder of the school year - beginning at the date of the offending absence - rather than extending into the next school year (and for many of us another school).

A representative of the HCS district indicated the purpose of the AIP is to help prevent the student from reaching 10 unlawful absences within the school year. If this is the case, the extension of the AIP into the next school year is unnecessary

6. The policy was poorly implemented at Ocean Bay Elementary. The attendance policy handed to Ocean Bay Elementary parents at the beginning of the year stated that "After 3 consecutive or 5 cumulative unlawful absences HCS requires that the school and parent (together) develop and AIP to ensure better attendance.” First, there is no definition of an AIP. Moreover, the AIPs being instituted are not being discussed or developed with parents. They are being imposed on families without their contribution. This is a violation of the written policy. We are concerned this demonstrates a lack critical thinking to consider all absences as opposed to repetitive, careless absenteeism that negatively affects academic performance.

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The Horry County Schools Attendance Procedures/Policies Need to be Revised petition to Horry County School District was written by Sara Bamrick and is in the category Education at GoPetition.