The Norman Transcript

December 7, 2012

Should early vacation count against kids?


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Q: We have a fourth-grader and a seventh-grader. We had planned to go on vacation the week before Christmas, and because of the school calendar, our kids will miss five days of school. Both schools are saying these days will count against them and they are in danger of not receiving grades for this semester because of excessive absences.

Are we wrong in thinking this is only elementary and middle school and doesn’t really “count” toward anything?

— Sandi, Newcastle

Dear Sandi,

Yes, we believe you are wrong. Not only do students learn something every single day they are in school (even though they say they don’t), you are setting a precedence of school/education not really being important.

Habits are set early on, so when students reach the age of junior high/high school where credits count toward graduation, they still have the mindset that it’s OK to miss the allotted number of times. So much instruction is missed when kids aren’t in the classroom — for any length of time.

You didn’t say what district or how many other times this semester your children might have missed, but in any case, there also will be the possibility of semester testing and not just holiday parties. Attendance laws are made to be followed. Why is it fair for your kids to not have the days count against them when they’re on vacation but do count against a kid who might be sick and unable to afford to a doctor visit?

It’s a lot of extra work for a teacher to gather assignments early or grade them late. In most cases, the principal approves whether students can take tests early or if they’ll have to wait until everyone comes back after the break.

It also may make a difference as to when the semester ends for your district. There are a lot of variables to consider, but the bottom line is the school calendar is set at the end of the year before the current year, so it shouldn’t be difficult to check for dates when school is in session so you can plan vacations accordingly.

We received the following response to a previous article on teen pregnancy:

I have enjoyed your column and wish that you would have started it years ago. Many students and parents have questions and don’t know where to turn for answers. I do think that your response to the 16-year-old pregnant teen was less than appropriate.

As you both know, many of the emotions with unwanted pregnancy include fear and shame. Responding to this teen asking for help as “mothers” was only perpetuating those feelings. The teen is already pregnant and it was not helpful to give an “I told you so” response.

What she needed was your expertise as school counselors to link her to agencies and services that would guide her through the process. She needed support and contacts and did not get either. She just got advice from two mothers.

As a person that also works with teens in my profession, I also have feelings about some of their unsafe or unwise choices. It is my role to guide them, not judge. I look forward to future columns and, despite that one response, still feel it is an asset to the community.

— Stephnee

Stephnee,

We would like to thank you for your response and kind words. Our hope is you will understand that as public school employees, when dealing with a child as young as 16, we are very limited as to the information we are able to give.

We are not sure to what agencies you’d have us direct her.

We can’t offer names of abortion clinics, adoption agencies or general medical clinics, but, instead, we would be there with her if she needed help talking to mom and/or dad.

If she were 18, it would be a completely different story and, of course, we could talk to her about her other options. As mothers, we would be most angry if one of our 16-year-old daughters were told where to get an abortion, medical help or general assistance with a pregnancy or adoption without us first being included in the discussion.

We so appreciate the work you do with kids. Please feel free to email us any time.

Jeannie and Sally are certified school counselors with 49 years combined educational experience. Jeannie has two children, Sally three. The responses presented don’t necessarily represent the views of any certain school district. Please send questions to questions.classact@gmail.com.

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