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Jeannette school board changes attendance policy

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

After months of warning students and parents that changes were coming to the district's attendance policy, the school board has approved a more strict set of rules in time for the start of the 2013-14 school year.

Any student who misses 18 or more days during the school year may not be granted credit toward graduation or toward advancing to the next grade level until those days have been made up through a summer session or during sanctions.

Sanctions is a new program instituted earlier this year that enabled students to make up “in-seat” time on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

Upon missing a total of five days during the first quarter, nine days by the end of the second quarter, 13 days at the end of the third quarter or 18 total days students will no longer be able to participate in any extracurricular events including prom, graduation and athletic events.

Last summer, the total permitted absences was lowered from 30 days to 20 days and this latest revision lowers that total by another two days.

Medically excused absences will not count toward those totals but board members stressed this week that those excuses must be valid.

Students who have 10 days or more of absences, aside from approved medically excused days, will be put on the sanctions list. Any student on the sanctions list is unable to participate in any extracurricular school activity.

Board members began discussing making the policy more strict after learning how many students were in danger of not graduating or advancing to a higher grade level simply because of attendance before the first half of the school year had ended.

Students who are denied graduation or advancement to the next grade level because of attendance issues can appeal that denial and the decision will be reviewed by an attendance review committee.

The committee's sole function will be to determine whether the student's excessive absences were legitimately attributable to an excused absence.

Students who are 45 or more minutes late to school or who leave school 45 or more minutes early from school will be considered absent for half a day. After five tardies, students must serve detention and after a 10th tardy the child's name is submitted to the Westmoreland County Children's Bureau to open a case file.

Board president Joseph Yorio has said the board will look into other possible penalties for students who miss too much school, such as fining parents and suspending students' driver's licenses.

Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at klinden@tribweb.com or 724-838-5154.

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