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FRANKLY SPEAKING: Absence of reason

In Nova Scotia, as of next week, playing on a high school sports team is considered more valuable than attending to any important family matters. At least according to the new Provincial school absenteeism policy.

The policy is aimed at reducing an increasingly troubling climb in the number of high school students missing extensive periods of class time. According to Minister Zack Churchill, almost a quarter of all high school students are missing more than three weeks of class each year.
The new policy seeks to get more students back into the classroom through an enhanced system of interventions and sanctions. Students now face the consequence of failing their credit for too many “unexcused” absences.
But it is the definition of an “unexcused absence” that has me concerned. Such absences would include many family related matters like medical appointments or a death in the family. Miss more than 20 per cent of your classes as a result of any of these reasons and you can lose your credit.
But don't worry if you want to play a plethora of school sports and miss more than the 20 per cent threshold because you are on the road with your teams. These are considered “excused” absences!
I think the Council has its head on backwards. Family matters over which a student has no control should be the “excused” absence and the sports trip the unexcused. Playing on a school team should be an earned privilege; earned by some academic discipline. If a student's sports activities are causing them substantial absences, and putting them at risk of missing their credit, they should be taken off the team. Period!
The new policy would seem to reward these school centred absences in direct contravention of the stated aims of the policy.
The policy on absences is absent of common sense. I would certainly flunk it.

Frank Likely is a retired Anglican minister and past president of the Springhill and Area Chamber of Commerce.

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