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Hayden, 12, had been having panic attacks about school even before a letter arrived at his home last month, threatening legal action for his alleged absences from distance learning. 

The sixth grader has been attending online class from his home outside Austin, Texas, since August, and having difficulties adjusting. When his grades dropped, he started having intense bouts of anxiety, working himself up until he cried so hard he could barely catch his breath. He wailed that he hated himself and wished he could do better in school.

Holly Barentine with her two sons. Hayden is left. Credit: Holly Barentine

When the letter arrived from Round Rock School District in November, saying that legal charges punishable by fines or court action could be brought against his mother for his absences, Hayden spiraled into a dayslong episode, says his mother Holly Barentine. He started crying even before they finished reading the letter, disclosing fears about worst-case scenarios that he would fail his classes. When he went to stay the night at his dad’s house, the crying continued. His father emailed Barentine, expressing concern for their son’s well-being.

Hayden, a sixth-grader, hadn’t actually been missing online school. However, his school district only counts kids present in some classes if they both show up and submit their homework for the day. Some of Hayden’s homework hadn’t been reaching his teachers due to apparent technological glitches on the school’s online platform, or in some cases because he hadn’t handed it in ― an oversight he didn’t expect to be met with potential legal action. 

Around the country, school districts are subject to state truancy laws and regulations. However, as the coronavirus pandemic has turned schools upside down and put most learning online, some of these rules are bumping against new realities involving technology gaps or a lack of parental supervision. Amid a global health crisis, threats like the one Round Rock sent to Barentine strike her as particularly archaic. 

Barentine immediately emailed her son’s school upon receiving the letter. 

“I have received a truancy notification for my son, who has been having extreme technical issues,” she wrote to administrators. “I have met with his teachers and gone over this, and I think it’s highly inappropriate to be sending out these notices to anyone during a pandemic, when we’re all doing the best we can.”

In recent years, truancy policies have started shifting away from punitive measures to providing more support for students who are chronically absent. Most states have some sort of truancy laws on the books, but only about half still have policies punishing truancy with potential penal measures, according to the national policy group Education Commission of the States.

“Threatening families with court isn’t what allows you to unpack what’s going on or come up with solutions, and I think this was true before the pandemic, and the pandemic, as with many situations, has made it even more clear”

Hedy Chang, Attendance Works

Where Barentine lives in Texas, the law changed several years ago so kids would no longer face potential criminal sanctions for truancy, instead putting in place school-level prevention programs. Students who are 12 and older may still get referred to truancy court, and parents found to have contributed to nonattendance can face fines and charges. In other states, like Alabama, parents who contribute to a child’s truancy “may also be sentenced to hard labor for the county for not more than 90 days.” 

During a pandemic, when there’s no uniform way of counting attendance, Hedy Chang, director of the advocacy group Attendance Works, has seen districts rethinking some of these rules, with their ability to do so varying on state flexibility.  

“Threatening families with court isn’t what allows you to unpack what’s going on or come up with solutions, and I think this was true before the pandemic, and the pandemic, as with many situations, has made it even more clear,” said Chang.

Round Rock spokesperson Jenny LaCoste-Caputo acknowledged the difficulties of following these policies during remote learning, noting that technological problems can sometimes erroneously show when an assignment was turned in. She said the district is closely following guidance issued by the Texas Education Agency, which says that teachers leading asynchronous classes can use the completion of daily assignments as a measure of attendance. In synchronous classes, it is enough for a student to be present. 

The letter Barentine received from her son’s school said that he had 10 unexcused absences and that it may be necessary to proceed with legal action against her and to refer her son to truancy court. 

“If you, with criminal negligence, fail to require the child to attend school as required by law, legal charges can be brought against YOU for Parent Contributing to Nonattendance,” says the letter, noting that “conviction of this offense is a Misdemeanor punishable by fines ranging from $100.00 for first offense up to $500.00 for each additional offense.” 

After HuffPost contacted the district, LaCoste-Caputo said it would reword the automatically generated truancy letters to be more “solution and intervention-oriented.” 

“We do understand that the current wording of the warning letter is in need of updating given our current climate,” LaCoste-Caputo wrote. “This environment presents a very real challenge on all sides, but we also must identify students who are not engaging in school virtually so we can do all we can to support them and bring them back.”

Barentine is now considering pulling Hayden and his older brother, an eighth-grader, out of school to enroll in a virtual program. She figures it would come with some of the same challenges, but with fewer technology issues and fewer legal threats. She’s still exploring this option ― she emailed the kids’ school for information on the withdrawal process, but they’re first going to finish the semester and then evaluate their options later this month.  

Hayden, typically an A or B student, has had difficulty making the transition from elementary school to middle school online. He was never a frequent user of computers, instead playing video games on a handheld device, and has found adjusting to the school’s online learning platform challenging. It sometimes takes him hours to type assignments. 

There have been more than a handful of instances, too, when technology simply failed him. Barentine recalls sitting next to him, watching him submit homework via the Schoology learning management platform used by the district, that the teacher never received. (Hayden has started directly emailing some of his assignments to teachers out of frustration.)

Barentine’s older son, more fluent in technology, has had an easier time making the adjustment, though sometimes his completed assignments don’t reach teachers, either. 

“There have definitely been issues to work through with the platform but we are happy with the support Schoology has provided,” said LaCoste-Caputo. 

Barentine, a single mother, hasn’t been around as much as she would like to help to coach Hayden through his difficulties. Her job as an escrow officer for a title company requires her to go into the office in person, leaving her two sons to work independently during most of the day. The office is only about 10 minutes away from their home, and she regularly drops in unannounced.

She’s been surprised at how well her children seem to be handling their new independence. They load the dishwasher and take out the trash before she gets home. Her eldest has started occasionally making his own lunch. They seem to be staying focused, even without supervision, she said. 

“It’s sad to see your kid passing with flying colors to failing everything. He’s already trying his best and not doing well because of everything. Then to hear you might have to fail or get kicked out or go to court.” 

Holly Barentine, parent 

Still, staying on top of her kids’ learning this year feels like a full-time job in itself, more work than previous stints on the school PTA. She’s started checking in every day with all her sons’ teachers. They all individually send weekly updates ― 14 different emails, all containing potentially vital information. 

There’s also the issue of her son’s well-being. Hayden has always had anxiety and has been seeing a therapist about it. But in the past his anxiety was rarely focused around school, where he did well. Now he calls his mom in a panic after their internet cuts out and he gets bumped from class, afraid he will get marked absent. 

“It’s sad to see your kid passing with flying colors to failing everything,” says Barentine. “He’s already trying his best and not doing well because of everything. Then to hear you might have to fail or get kicked out or go to court.” 

The district has referred 22 truancy cases to court this school year, a number LaCoste-Caputo says is significantly down from the 65 referrals during the fall semester last year. Staff members in the large district with over 50,000 students have been following up with families to ensure they are “true truancy cases” before making these referrals, she said. 

In Chicago, Kishonna Gray decided to pull her children out of public school after receiving a similar letter. Gray, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, had been working remotely, supervising her kids’ learning, when one of them received a truancy notice in October. 

There was the time she took her kids, in second and fourth grade, with her to a doctor’s appointment so they wouldn’t be left without supervision. Another time, she took them with her when she went to get her car fixed, an activity that took hours. While Gray’s husband is working remotely, his job is less flexible and he’s usually unable to pull himself away from the computer to watch the kids. 

Gray allowed her youngest child to turn his camera off during class, which caused him to be marked as absent at his charter school, she says. Her child prefers to sit on a bouncy ball during class to help him focus, but his teacher told him it was distracting and asked him to stop. Gray gave him permission to turn off his camera to prevent him from distracting others if the ball would help him learn. 

A few weeks later, she received a truancy letter, explaining that her youngest had missed five unexcused days of school. It warned that if the pattern continued, they could be subject to the “chronic truant adjudication hearing procedures.” 

“Should your child be found to be a chronic truant and should you, your child, or both, fail to comply with any sanctions imposed by the hearing officer, the Department of Chronic Truant Adjudication may refer the matter to the Office of Cook County State’s Attorney for prosecution,” read the letter. 

April Shaw, Namaste Charter School’s executive director, said parents had been told cameras should be on during live instruction. They were encouraged to reach out if they had concerns or needed accommodations, and a number have been granted. The truancy letters, required by Chicago Public Schools, are automatically generated, Shaw wrote in an email. 

But Gray had already been having issues with her sons’ school. Remote learning had given her a look into their classrooms, and she didn’t like what she saw. 

Her older child’s teacher would rally kids back to class after breaks by sounding a police siren ― a noise Gray, who is Black, found inappropriate, given the context of protests against law enforcement and the optics of a white teacher exercising control in that way over a majority Black and brown classroom. 

Her younger child’s classroom was constantly being divided for activities based on gender, a pattern Gray found frustrating ― he is transgender. (Once she reached out to the school complaining about these issues, they made adjustments, Gray said.)  

But at a time where teachers had the opportunity to reimagine the architecture of learning, Gray says she witnessed an emphasis on compliance and authority as opposed to curiosity and ideas. The truancy allegation seemed emblematic of these larger issues.  

“I realized this space was going to do more harm to my kids at such an early age because they have the rest of their lives to be disappointed by the world,” Gray says. “At this time I would like them to be connected to advocates and people who support them.” 

When Gray received the truancy letter, she sat her kids down and explained the situation to them ― that their mom could get in legal trouble for taking them to the doctors or allowing her youngest to turn off his camera. They didn’t understand. They equated courts and punishment with crimes like murder and stealing ― mommy had only tried to help them. She asked them how they felt about home schooling instead. 

Cooper Seaver working on his computer at his home. Credit: Tamir Kalifa for HuffPost

Now, Gray spends her day teaching her kids about the tenants of physics through at-home basketball games, and about kinesiology through dance and movement. She gives her kids Mondays off so she can work, while at-home school is in session Tuesday through Friday. As a professor, her classes are asynchronous this semester, making her schedule mostly flexible. A sample home school schedule shared by Gray in mid-October shows her teaching her children about decimals and plants and poetry. When and if she puts her kids back in school, she says she’ll be looking for another one. 

“I measure success by their mental well-being, they’re happier kids,” says Gray, noting that her fourth-grader almost immediately stopped wetting the bed when she took him out of school. She hadn’t known that school had become such a stressor. 

Shaw takes issue with Gray’s characterizations, noting that the school took steps to address her complaints, and emphasized its commitment to diversity, parent connectivity and a personal approach to learning. 

“When the parent reached out with the concern, we immediately responded with ways to support the students,” including options to have the camera off and an alternative schedule, wrote Shaw. “We can confidently say that Namaste’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, along with parent and community communication and support were in place throughout the student’s time at Namaste.”

“They are trying to have an attendance policy like they are in person, but they are not in person”

Megan Jackson, teacher, Chicago

Gray worries about other students in Chicago Public Schools with fewer resources, who may be getting marked absent because of technological issues, or because their parents are working outside the home all day and aren’t able to supervise. 

Chicago educator Megan Jackson, who teaches special education at a Chicago elementary school that serves predominantly low-income students, has seen these issues play out in her classroom. Many of her families work in retail, restaurants, and essential services and lack reliable child care, making it especially difficult to ensure that their young kids will log on and stay logged on. 

One of Jackson’s first graders has missed some 20 days of school this fall because of various challenges, she says. His mother works at a chain food store and couldn’t stay home to care for him, so she often left him with relatives, where he had trouble accessing Wi-Fi. Then the student’s school-provided computer broke. 

Jackson says she picked up the computer from the student’s home and took it to school to be repaired. While it was being fixed, the mom received a letter from the school marking her son as truant. 

She says the district’s attendance policies don’t take into account the realities of parents’ lives and the obstacles to keeping young children engaged online. “They are trying to have an attendance policy like they are in person, but they are not in person,” Jackson says.

Chicago Public Schools spokesperson James Gherardi told HuffPost the district has told teachers “to exercise discretion, allowing for flexibility in determining attendance in the event of unforeseen circumstances and in adjustment to the remote learning environment,” including scheduling, connecting and logging in.*

Hayden is not the only student in his district to receive truancy letters during the pandemic because of missed assignments. 

An eighth grader named Cooper received one in October, baffling his mother, Kandis Seaver, who is home with him all day and hasn’t been working during the health crisis. 

Cooper, like Hayden, has been mostly attending class ― though his mother admits he may have occasionally been tempted by computer games. His absences snowballed, however, over a failure to do homework. Cooper has always struggled with homework, something his mother tried not to interfere with in an effort to let him learn his own lessons. 

Kandis, Cooper and Rob Seaver stand for a portrait at their apartment complex in Austin, Texas, on Dec. 8, 2020. Credit: Tamir Kalifa for HuffPost

He’s also been plagued by technological glitches in which completed assignments have failed to make their way to his teachers. His parents have had trouble sorting out which absences were a result of him not logging on for class and which were for not doing homework. 

Cooper’s teachers, some of whom taught him in previous years, say he doesn’t participate like he used to. At one point this semester, he was failing all but one class, and the situation has only barely improved since. 

Seaver and her husband have opted to keep Cooper home for safety reasons, even after in-person classes resumed. Now they wonder if they should enroll him in the district’s hybrid option. They wonder if the consequences of remote learning ― the poor grades, the legal threats ― make it worth the tradeoff, even though going back would make her son incredibly anxious over potential exposure to COVID-19. 

“Combined with being stuck home all day and never seeing his friends except occasionally on FaceTime, I could imagine how it all feels altogether overwhelming,” says Seaver. “It feels like they made this policy and then we weren’t given any additional resources or anything.”

Local news reports say grades in the district have fallen this semester, as in districts around the country. (Seaver notes her appreciation for a recently rolled out virtual tutoring program.)

LaCoste-Caputo says Round Rock’s decline in student grades has been in line with peer districts and “most of the issues were not from low grades on assignments but from missing assignments as students were getting accustomed to this brand new and unfamiliar way of learning.” 

Barentine worries about how this year will impact her son’s long-term relationship with school and his view of himself as a student.

“It’s hurting his self esteem,” says Barentine, who spoke with her son’s counselor and learned that most other students are struggling with the same issues. 

Hayden still feels nervous that the family could be upended with legal consequences for truancy, no matter how hard he tries in school.

“I don’t think he really believes that nothing is going to happen,” says Barentine. “I just tell him that we have to do the best we can, and if you feel like you’re going to have a panic attack, tell the teacher you need a few minutes and give me a call.”

*This story has been updated with a comment from a spokesperson from Chicago Public Schools.

Caroline Preston contributed reporting.

This story about truancy was produced as part of an ongoing series on school discipline in the pandemic, reported by HuffPost and The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter here.

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Letters to the Editor

13 Letters

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  1. My son is an 8th grader and has also experienced these issues with HISD. My son was being counted absent on multiple occasions despite actually being present in class. I was sitting alongside him while he was in class and I was in disbelief that the school was still counting him absent and he was submitting assignments. My daily job was sending multiple emails asking why he is absent when I am sitting next to him and he is in class. In addition, my sons math teacher did not provide appropriate access to his quizzes and she wS giving him 0s. She did not reply to my multiple emails with request for his access and even after multiple prince meetings the issue was never resolved. My sons grades took a hit due to his teacher not doing her job and so.ehow retaliating on my son when I went to the principle. The principle finally moved him to another Math teacher but I ended up checking him out of that school and into another school due to a move. I found out the school had a whopping 32 absences by the time Nov came around. Erroneous of course. O had to forward 30+ emails i sent to teachers inquiring about my sons absences that were apparently were not fixed. How can my son be absent when I am sitting with him the whole time while he is in class? Epic fail on the technology navigation for HISD. The worst part is that students are paying with poor grades. This is an adult problem that needs to be fixed by adults, not at the child’s expense

  2. We live in south carolina and this article could not have described our situation better. We do hybrid but on the 3 days a week we are online and I have gotten truency letters about my 13 year old 7th grader not turning in assignments and being marked absent for it. My 10 year old is faring ok and has somewhat adapted to hybrid she only has 2 absences one of which was because of covid testing over thanksgiving . When I signed her out around lunch time today the attendance lady had something to say because I signed her out due to her brothers band concert at the same school that they put limits on family members only 2 people could come so I had to find her child care which was a distance away I had to pick her up early to make it in time. So I felt torn,be judged for signing her out eairly or be late or even miss my 13 year old performance.Their big trip to a theme park was canceled this year due to covid so this was the next best option. Mean while my 13 year old has anxity and ADHD and has a special education plan since 1st grade and currently has around 16-17 absences they rack up quick when you are talking multiple assignments for 5 teachers a day. Especially when you are trying to navigate life. My mother needs extra help due to her health but Im not much due to the risk of her compromised health scared im going to make her sick because the kids attend in person class but if we go completely at home like the end of last year I wont be able to help her at all.

  3. I also had the same problem with truancy being threatened with Endeavor Charter Academy in Springfield Michigan they said because of homework that was missed they would receive an absence for that day two of my kids had several absences and the other two only had two each so I pulled them out of the school and place them in another school and since then have not had the issue

  4. I’ve also received court threats even though my child is keeping up fine in school. Her grades aren’t as good as they were in person, and if she isn’t participating she is marked as absent which is fair. However, I’ve found her rejecting attending online classes given the lack of over all participation from other students, and her doing all the participating in some classes. She feels some overwhelming pressure, that she’d much rather not attend and just teach herself. I try to be supportive, as she is not falling behind in school. But these court threats are extremely anxiety inducing, and aren’t being considerate of the mental fragility many students and parents are experiencing due to the pandemic. I understand yes my child is missing class, so the letters are completely reasonable, but they’re terrifying.

  5. This was common in the high school, my son dropped out, took his GED & is set to start college courses in the Spring. The schools WILL lose federal funding with less students, and the drop out rate will rise if they can’t find a better solution for our children.
    Their minds are being ignored, they NEED peers, and if they are to succeed they NEED to be well-rounded, not just sitting in front of a screen without real stimulation.

  6. My son is well is being threatened with truancy in Vancouver Washington saying that it was an open case from last year because he missed a little bit of school because we were homeless and had domestic violence issues the school wanted to try and take me to court now they’re doing it again granted he hasn’t signed on for a little while but he also has anxiety bad he’s not even the same kid that he was before all of this pandemic started my son is not even the same person I don’t think he ever will be he has so much anxiety about school and getting on that computer but he’s not out doing criminal Acts or doing anything wrong he’s here at he’s 13 years old he’s a good kid he was basically a straight student I’m not sure what to do because I am being threatened with truancy I’ve talked to the school and they all have a different answer for me I don’t think last year’s attendance should have anything to do with this year and it was a close case last year anyway it doesn’t carry over does it

  7. I have two sons. One in eighth grade and one in first. My oldest got a truancy letter for 400 some dollars for 9 days of school missed. Our life this year has been even more of a tragedy than most families out there. We lost my husband (kid’s dad) in February and my middle son(kid’s sibling) in May. We lost half our family… My sons are grieving as well as me. So our life this year, with death, school, covid, everything has been ripped out from under us. I’m disgusted that they would do this , knowing our struggles this year. West Perry school district is doing a poor job with virtual learning.

  8. My School District is sending the attendance letters out too! They threatened to charge me with truancy during a crisis. This in combination with my environmental conditions is when my resilience saved me from having a mental breakdown, I was pushed to my edges and still am. My sleeping patterns have been all screwed up since. When pandemic learning was implemented, Every time we would try to log onto the remote learning system we were unsuccessful due to system errors with many attempts. I struggled with stable housing during Colorado’s gentrified pandemic as a single mother. I had money for a deposit first and last months rent, no criminal back ground, a job struggling to find a long term spot having to move five times. In addition to economic uncertainty, I was managing the grief of losing my mother and two sisters in a short period, along with the PTSD that came with witnessing my sister die in front of my daughter and I. I informed the principle and three different school counselors of our conditions. I was in direct contact with the superintendent. My daughter and I finally got settled into long term housing in November and were working miracles in healing and taking care of our basic priorities. Then, I get the most disturbing email from her school principle who in the past had already proven himself the master of my deepest childhood triggers with the good ole small minded, ignorant neurotypical nonsense that tortured me through my middle school experience . My daughter and I both have Dyslexia. I spent decades in therapy and somatic, holistic healing practices to connect me with my most authentic qualities. My daughter completed her first semester online and the whole situation stressed us out and it was worst thing I ever experienced. They might as well put me in jail because that’s what it feels like. If they are going to kick me while I’m down forcing us to comply with the most uneducated education nonsense disconnecting us from nature, health, work and the things we need to do to recover. I’m a woman with a college education that spread through her entire adult life I have been enrolled in courses that support concepts of Physical and Emotional Heath, Public Health, Response to Crisis, Holistic wellness, Community Relationship Building, Communication, Partnerships with Families, Building strong foundations for learning, Fine Arts, with certification programs in education, business, management, music and dance. While working fulltime in positions that I was able to directly use my education hand in hand with experience. I am perfectly capable of offering my child a better educational experience without a system that doesn’t meet my expectations and is a detriment to our livelihood. I have never felt so disappointed in our school district and believe me we had a very poor experience before Covid. I don’t have any trust regarding the educational staff and I don’t even want to continue, it’s not a supportive learning experience that we are happily engaged in and it decreases our ability to function in a crisis. I’ve been trying to get over my response but I’m coming on three months time since I got the letter and the experience still holds a strong charge on my emotions. I’m so frustrated with the injustice and how threatening our livelihood when I was down effected my ability to cope. I want education to be resourceful not debilitating. It’s was such an oppressive experience, I don’t want it happening to other struggling parents. I’m glad the pandemic gave me a taste of what it’s like to be in survival mode with a public school system that has no regard to basic human needs of struggling students and families. It’s the families that are stable, the students who have continued academic success and less behavioral problems that their support and attention go towards, while the vulnerable are threatened with charges and punishment. How is pressing charges on the child’s only provider going to solve the problem? It’s not and it is detrimental to the physical and emotional health of families , economic development, society, humankind, diversity of a culture and the spirit of humans.

  9. I live in north Carolina, I have 4 kids doing online classes at home also have a 3 year old to keep up with along with other things, I got a letter before Christmas break that my 12 year old daughter couldn’t get online and do any assignments or attend any online classes cause she didn’t have her 7th grade shot which I find stupid right now sense she is not in person, then I got a 8 year old she is a shy girl doesn’t talk alot at all when I can get her online she just sits there doesn’t repound when she is asked a question if she dose it’s so low the teacher can’t hear her she had someone from her school coming once a week woking with her til the school had to stop all home visits so it’s made it harder on her she dose get work packets dropped off for her to do and drop off at school. I got a text message not a letter but text message from school social worker saying if my 8 year old child doesn’t get online for her class we will be sent to truncy which the school all knows about the 8 year old how shy she is and will not talk online she never got the chance to met her teacher so she doesn’t know the people online it takes her a little while to open up after meeting someone the school knows that she was quite when she attended in person before all this, it find the truncy threats in called for when they say we all all in this together, eveyone is doing there best,

  10. Im in 6th just got a letter of truancy but had been attending classes why am i getting that letter in total it was 2 times because i have to get let in i really am now struggling please tell me why i’m accused of skipping school and i do my assignments when we have to catch up or the days its due help. i used to do good until new teachers i really need an answer if i’m turning in assignments why truancy i wish it was never a thing knowing this is online school and it doesn’t make sense that I’ve been joining classes if you ask the other teachers why would i choose to not go when i get on every class and request access but they chose not to let me in tell me why…

  11. My son has an IEP he has ADHD and a learning disability. During the last year we lost my father and my grandfather to covid and we have been trying to work through all of this tragic year the best we can I have 4 kids 3 of them that are in school and a 10 month old. I am here all day because I cannot work and educate them at the same time. We enrolled my son into polytech before the pandemic began because in our area this school is supposed to be a better choice for his future. My son has missed some classes due to the tragedy this year but alot of technology issues as well as disconnected cable as I am still waiting on a box from the school not to mention the days that he is in class and I see him myself in class but he is still marked absent. I am so frustrated that we are being threatend with truency court. This whole situation is unbelievable….I have been in constant contact with the school working with them with his IEP and trying to explain it is hard for children to differentiate home and school especially a child that has special needs. So my son is being punished for his disability pretty much how I see it. I agree children belong in school on time and present but how can they be with so many changes going on of Wich we have never seen in any of our lives people dieng left and right but we are expected to just deal with it and people can do whatever they want to you and we pay the consequences. The teachers are not doing what they need to be the parents are doing all roles and also having to keep food on the table. Maybe I didn’t express myself clearly because I am so frustrated..I just want to know who is out here to help the parents and see what we see and speak on our behalf and let these schools and states know what they are doing is wrong. If things were not ready for our children to return to school then they should have never returned.

  12. I don’t believe that truancy laws should be enforceable during an epidemic. For online learning holding parents and students accountable for technical issues beyond their control doesn’t make legal sense. In order for a crime to occur an act and an intention must coincide, and even a case of negligence wouldn’t be successful if the prosecution cannot establish that actual neglect has occurred.

    As a college student subject to online learning through synchronous zoom lectures I have dealt with my own share of technical problems. I have issues with zoom not working with my webcam or microphone on occasion. I also have extremely loud neighbors who blast music all night and an even louder church who plays bad church music every hour on the hour during the day both of which has affected my grades far more than technical issues. If I am not getting enough sleep due to situations beyond my control I may be late for a lecture and if I am not able to study due to not having a proper learning environment my grades will suffer. As an adult, I am managing regardless, but if I was a child dealing with the much larger course load of your typical student I don’t think I would be able to manage at all.

    Even when schools physically reopen I don’t feel it will be appropriate because while children are less likely to show symptoms of COVID-19 they can still catch it and spread that infection to other students who can then infect their families. A parent who is worried for the safety of themselves or their children should not be punished for it. On the contrary, I question if it is even constitutional to punish parents under such circumstances.

    Yes, students have a right to education, but that doesn’t mean threatening parents for situations beyond their control. It means making sure students have access to education. They should give students the option of asynchronous learning. Let them study with physical books and write on actual paper and maybe on a weekly basis allow the students to mail the documents in. This way technical issues won’t factor in. If that doesn’t work for a school for whatever reason they could provide students with mobile hot spots and be responsible for ensuring that it works. and when something breaks? Call that an excused absence! See, there are lots of ways that schools can make sure students are learning regardless of the technical issues students are having.

    Failure to cut back on the truancy threats will absolutely result in more and more parents going with home schooling.

  13. I got a phone call today stating that my son hasn’t been logging in( even though he has). He has an iep and edgenuity is extremely hard for him so they told me to make sure he was doing google classroom and he has but there’s no work. So the truancy officer called me and it’s getting ridiculous.

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