BOE seeks to link unexcused absences, grades

REGION 16 — Proposed changes to the truancy policy would tie unexcused absences to students’ grades for the first time in Region 16.

Under the proposal, any student with 19 or more unexcused absences, which do not include absences for serious medical or family issues, would automatically receive a grade of Incomplete for all subjects.

“What we’re saying is, ‘Hey, you need to be in school.’ And, unfortunately, we have some students that have unexcused absences,” Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin.

A grade of incomplete doesn’t mean a student has failed his or her classes, but it does prohibit a student from being promoted to the next grade. Under the proposed changes, a student who reaches the threshold of 19 unexcused absences has to appear before an appeals board established by each school for an informal hearing. The appeals board will determine whether to reinstate a student’s grades or what a student needs to do to have his or her grades reinstated.

The Region 16 Board of Education, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, approved a first reading of the policy Wednesday. The board will vote on the revised policy at a future meeting. If approved, the changes would be implemented in the 2016-17 school year.

Board of Education Chair Sheryl Feducia said the matter of unexcused absences isn’t a big issue in the district, but there are a few students who are chronically absent. She said the change is about accountability. Currently, she said, there are no consequences spelled out for a student who misses a lot of class.

“Obviously, we want to make sure all the kids are educated,” said Feducia, adding that part of the responsibility of ensuring students are in school falls on the region.

Feducia said students may also be having issues at home that are causing unexcused absences. She said the policy could be a way for schools to identify these students and help them.

Yamin added the district is also dealing with students who are constantly tardy and leaving early.

Under the proposed policy changes, every three unexcused tardies and every three unexcused early dismissals will equal one unexcused absence on a student’s academic record.

Yamin said the region has committed resources to improving and becoming a high-performing district. It’s difficult, he said, to reach a higher level if students aren’t in school.

“We’re here to build academically, socially, emotionally, behaviorally, and I think you need to be in school as part of our process,” Yamin said.