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New attendance law takes effect in schools across La.

5 years ago August 10, 2010 Aug 10, 2010 Tuesday, August 10 2010 Tuesday, August 10, 2010 9:39:10 PM CDT in News
Source: WBRZ
By: Ashley Rodrigue

A new school year brings a new attendance rule from the state.  Students cannot miss as many days, and the consequences for too many are up for students and parents.
The State Education Board passed the new policy, hoping it will cut down truancy rates and cut out bad attendance habits that roll over into the workplace.

"We've always found that when we raise the bar, when we expect very good things from our students, they live up to those expectations," said St. Amant High Principal Steve Westbrook.

The new attendane expectation set by the state requires all students to be in class 167 out of 177 school days.  Before, the minimum for elementary, middle and junior high students was 160.  It was 162 for high school students.  If students exceed that number of unexcused absences, they fail.  Seniors won't graduate.

"You're not in school 13, 14 days," said BESE spokeswoman Rene Greer, "how can you manage to learn what you need to learn?"

"We think it's good for children. We think it's good for our school system and again, it's teaching everybody that there is accountability, and it doesn't go away when you graduate high school," said East Baton Rouge Parish School Superintendent John Dilworth.

"We think it's a good thing to have less days missed because again, the kids, the more days that they're in class, the better opportunity they have to succeed," said Ascension Parish School spokesman Johnnie Balfantz.

However, those who know truant students best think the policy will help some kids but not all.

"I think it'll set a great tone, great foundation for those that are starting kindergarten, first grade, second grade and for their parents," said Cecile Guin with the Truancy Assessment Service Center. "The group that'll have the disadvantage is the group of older students that are not engaged in school at all."

There are exceptions to the policy.  Districts will be lenient for extreme illnesses, deaths in the family and storms, but even those circumstances will have limits.

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