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Archive for Monday, April 29, 2013

Truancy policies can catch parents by surprise

April 29, 2013

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Tracy Meisenheimer said she was stunned in February when she received a letter from her daughter's school notifying her that her 6-year-old was considered truant.

Meisenheimer, who suffers from migraine headaches, said she had been late getting her daughter to school a few times because she felt unable to drive. She also said her daughter had been sent home by the school nurse once because it was suspected she had tonsillitis, although a doctor later confirmed she did not.

Nevertheless, after her daughter's seventh unexcused absence from kindergarten this year, Meisenheimer was reported to state child welfare officials, placed in a diversion program, and next month she will have to appear at a hearing to determine whether she has satisfied the terms of her diversion.

"I'm flabbergasted at what I'm hearing," Meisenheimer said. "The diversion program means two hours once a week for nine weeks, or until a hearing is set with the assistant district attorney. I have someone come to my home every week to talk to my daughter."

Meisenheimer said she thinks school officials have overreacted to a few days when her child was not absent, but simply late getting to school. And while Lawrence school district officials declined to discuss an individual case, they said the school district's policies on absences and truancy only reflect state law.

"The bottom line is that it's important for students to be in school in order to learn," superintendent Rick Doll said.

According to the district's policy manual, truancy is defined as, "any three consecutive unexcused absences, any five unexcused absences in a semester or seven unexcused absences in a school year, whichever occurs first."

That's the same language used in the Kansas statute dealing with compulsory attendance.

But the state statute only defines an unexcused absence as being absent for "all or a significant part of a school day without a valid excuse." It leaves the decision about what constitutes a "significant part of a school day," and what constitutes a "valid excuse" up to each individual district.

In Lawrence, an elementary student who is gone for one hour or more, or a secondary student who misses one period or more, is defined as absent. But the school system leaves the decision about whether an absence is excused or unexcused up to each school principal.

Meisenheimer said she thinks that is unfair because, "if you (anger) the principal, he can make your life hell."

Student handbooks at each of the city's schools give general guidance about what constitutes an excused absence, but an examination of those handbooks reveals that the policies are different from one school to the next.

At Deerfield School, which Meisenheimer's daughter attends, the handbook states that all absences are unexcused except those for "illness of the student, death in the immediate family, and exceptionally urgent reasons that affect the student."

Parents must notify Deerfield officials of a student's absence and seek an excuse within two school days of the absence. Otherwise they are permanently recorded as unexcused.

Quail Run School's handbook, in contrast, says that "sickness of a student, severe affliction in the family, exposure to infectious or contagious diseases, observances of religious holidays or extremely inclement weather are examples of legitimate excuses for nonattendance or tardiness. Examples of unexcused absences include trips or vacations."

And the Langston Hughes School handbook offers no specific examples of an excused absence, but advises parents that, "children who have had fevers should be fever-free for 24 hours before they return."

During the 2011-12 school year, Lawrence district officials filed 416 truancy reports, according to district spokeswoman Julie Boyle. Of those, she said, 318 were for high school students.

The state statute requires school districts to notify state child welfare officials or local law enforcement whenever a child younger than 13 is considered truant. For students 13 and older, districts are required to file reports directly with local law enforcement agencies.

Those reports trigger an investigation by the Kansas Department for Children and Families, formerly known as Social and Rehabilitation Services. In most cases, according to the department, truancy and other forms of "non-abuse or neglect," families are referred for family preservation services or, in more serious cases, placement of the child in foster care.

From July 1, 2012, through March 31, 2013, the agency reported 68 children in Kansas were removed from their homes because of truancy.

Comments

KansasMinxDiva 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I am a single mom of 2. 6yr old daughter and a 4yr old son. He is in private pre-K. Im also self employed. LJW did a article & photo shoot at my salon. It was featured last Mon in the GO insert. I work about 45-50 hours a were to support my family. Im not on any gov't programs nor do I qualify for any. It was the grossly misguided assumptions of Deerfield office staff that "people like me" as stated in a letter from the school nurse wouldn't take things serious when it came to the wellness & best interest of my daughter. I challenged the nurse and her opinion and a few days later I get the truancy letter. When I spoke to Joni about what I believed to be a set up and that.her nurse and I need to have a meeting with her, Joni said that she didn't think it was necessary. So yes there is more to this story but I wanted to lead with the truancy because I believe there should be some changes & parents need to be made aware of their children attendance records and make sure that when they call or email to excuse their child that it is excused and not get caught off guard like I did. Everything thing the nurse attempted has come back on her against her favor & I was vindicated but not after damage was done. The Nursing board will be contacted after my daughter's last day of school. I've requested that I get a phone call when my daughter goes into the nurses office. The school district liaison didn't think that was an unreasonable request but Joni did.and refuses to

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prairierose 11 months, 2 weeks ago

As a parent who lives in the Deerfield area I have been following this thread closely. We currently have our children in private school but were looking at possibly sending them to the neighborhood school. Now, I don't think it will be worth it for us. This is yet another bad report about this principal. We have heard many. This makes me sad because when we first moved to the area in 2005 we only heard wonderful and glowing reports from Deerfield parents. We still opted for private school for various reasons. We would rather save the K-12 money for college but private school has served us well.

Reading through many comments the words that kept coming to mind were "Arbitrary and Capricious". The way this principal uses her discretion (and the nurse/office staff?) in deciding who will be punished by these truancy guidelines is Arbitrary and Capricious. Apparently, a single parent with a medical condition has become a criminal matter. This may very well be a case for the local ACLU. Give them a call and run the facts by them.

We are criminalizing being a single mother? Is this the community we want for our children? Where is the compassion and empathy? If it takes a village-well-this leader (principal) just threw you in front of a bus! At best this is just plain sloppy/ laziness on the part of the principal and staff. At worst, this is a vindictive and abusive use of administrative power. Reporting a 6yo for truancy is a BFD! Why not save the resources for the kids who really need it? Why traumatize a young child needlessly?

This is bullying behavior.

Having read through many of the district school handbooks I was very dismayed to learn that you are at the mercy of each prinicipal and how they have chosen to interpret district policies, and by far Deerfield seems the most punitive.

Reminds me of my time back at THS when each division principal would apply the rules as they saw fit and it was hardly fair to students who weren't in the "cool" division (it was Div III for all you THS alums). You remember right? There was way more empathy for students in Div. III and if you were in Div II... well... no amount of hard luck swayed that guy. Does the treatment sound familiar Tracy? It is obvious Quail Run and Langston Hughes parents enjoy a much more benevolent application of these rules. The demographics between all three schools are not strikingly different so why such punitive implementation? Does Deerfield have that many "derelict" parents compared to QR and LH?

I am not buying it.

If I were you I would lawyer up NOW. As soon as you got that letter it should have prompted a call to an attorney. It costs some pretty pennies but this is a really punitive act and it must be fought. Organize your fellow parents and check with the Kansas ACLU first. https://aclukswmo.org/

The district won't change it's behavior if everyone just rolls over. It will just reinforce business as usual.

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Bridgett Wagner 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I think the point that is being missed here is that, HOLY CRAP: if you screw up and your kid is late to school more than 7 times over the course of 10 months, DCF is going to be knocking on your door. You will be going to court(?!) and people who don't know you are going to be prying into your private life and causing you AND your child stress and misery. Because your child was late to school less than once a month over the course of a school year. SERIOUSLY. Am I the only one who is floored by this? SO, the details of this statewide policy are left to the discretion of each individual school, as evidenced by the varied policies referenced in the article. YET, if you ask the school district, they blame the state and say that they have no choice in the matter. If the state is going to mandate this draconian policy, then it should be enforced EQUALLY district-wide. What's good for Deerfield should be good enough for Langston Hughes, amiright? I've heard unrelated negative stories about the Principal at Deerfield, and I tend to believe that where there's smoke, there's fire. Principals (i.e. middle management, pretty much?), in my opinion, should NOT have the unmitigated power to unleash a powerful and far-reaching governmental agency like DCF/SRS/whatever it is nowadays on families unless there is an actual, good reason to do so! How is it even possible that there isn't a requirement to give notice and offer a chance to remedy the situation prior to contacting authorities? I'm freaking appalled right now. I was appalled two years ago when I happened to catch a glimpse of the truancy policy in a friend's handbook. I am a product of USD497. Deerfield, as a matter of fact. I'm thankful that I had the presence of mind to choose to NOT live in the Deerfield neighborhood, beautiful as it is - I don't want my kid to have the same kind of experience I had all those years ago. Talk about bullies. Sounds like this Principal is a bully, too. Oh, and PS - aren't most of you people anti when it comes to the idea of the government knocking on your door and telling you what to do? Isn't that the kind of rhetoric I usually see being vomited forth by most of you? Yet - WOW - way to be incredibly harsh and judgmental toward a parent (I'm guessing single parent?) you've never met, who is obviously struggling. Mom - I'm with you. This is BS. Not looking forward to dealing with it when my kid starts KG in August. I'll probably oversleep one too many times and end up running into you at the courthouse at some point. Good luck and I hope things work out for you. Thank you for speaking out.

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CHEEZIT 11 months, 2 weeks ago

It has to be a parenting issue??? If the child has so many absences it is reported because that is the law???? No attempt to investigate what the issue could be or if it could be resolved another way. It is totally messed up! It shouldn't be a black and white issue. Andy Taylor used to say "Sometimes you have to consider the human equation".

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Liberal 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Again why can athletes disrupt class early by leaving not fall under the same rule? If it is disruptive for a child to come in late why is not just as disruptive to leave early?

What the district is doing is outrageous and many of your attitudes are pitiful. This policy is 'BAD" and it needs to be changed.

One of the parents have said they have asked for help for their child who is falling through the cracks and she has gotten NO help. I have found this to be true in the high schools.

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jafs 11 months, 2 weeks ago

One can see the effect of training kids early on to be compliant and defer to authority figures.

When they become adults, they continue the practice, in the absence of any particular reason to do so.

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ferrislives 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Hotsot? Nice. If you've read any of my comments you would notice that the teachers were never mentioned. What you'd notice is that my children and I have not had good experiences at this school partially due to a lack of communication from the Principal and her staff. Sure, there are two sides to every story. However this school has not created a good reputation amongst several parents because of their communication issues. This district needs to do their job. Otherwise, why have leaders?

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jafs 11 months, 2 weeks ago

You know, people that come on here and claim there's much more to the story should enlighten the rest of us.

If/when they don't, I suspect they're just stirring the pot.

Personally, since the school is hiding behind confidentiality requirements, if I were this parent, I'd send them a letter waiving those and allowing them to provide all of the relevant records to the public.

Then we'll see what's really going on.

So far, I tend to believe the parent - when I called the school, they said they were just following the rules, but according to my research, the individual school defines an "unexcused" absence, and the district calls an hour lateness a half day absence, not a full absence.

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ferrislives 11 months, 2 weeks ago

likeitis: Apparently your parents never taught you manners. Anyone looking at your flurry of quick comments can see that you have a dog in this fight. Anyone arguing that a school district should not provide leadership and consistency has at least one screw loose. I don't get why any parent (especially a parent of 3) would argue against that, but I'm sure that you are an unbiased source.

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Brandon Devlin 11 months, 2 weeks ago

One other thing, and maybe I'm just being old-fashioned here... Migraines so bad you can't drive? Maybe emailing the school isn't the answer. How about a phone call? Talk to a (gasp!) live person and explain the situation? You've got a smartphone...be a little smart, here.

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Brandon Devlin 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Simple, folks...get up on time, call the school if there's a problem getting your kid to school. It's not rocket science. Wouldn't be "unexcused" or "tardy" if you pulled your head out of your "fifth point of contact" and did the right thing. Be responsible and raise responsible children.

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likeitis 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Child neglect is serious business and while such neglect is(sadly) not that uncommon, seeing people actually flaunting of that behavior is something rather rare and very, very disturbing. Our school system is charged with educating our children. The critical first step in the education process is attendance. If parents don't care about their child's attendance, then that child is very unlikely to be successful in school.
It all starts at home.

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Tony Kisner 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Public schools should be abolished. They are accountable to no one.

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usesomesense 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I'd suggest all parents with kids in USD497 call district headquarters at 785-832-5000 and ask them to pull up the attendance records for this year to make sure your children don't have any unexcused absences. One of my kids was very sick a few weeks ago and the times I had to call in I was only able to leave a voicemail. I never heard from anyone at the school and presume the absences are excused, but apparently there's no policy in the district to notify parents about unexcused absences.
As for calling SRS - especially for attendance - that should never be left to the individual schools. USD497 administration should always be involved with anything resembling that level of seriousness - it's a lawsuit waiting to happen.
It's like having the 16 year old shift supervisor at McDonald's just firing staff at will - they shouldn't have that kind of authority at that level. They could certainly recommend it, but shouldn't be able to execute it.

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ferrislives 11 months, 2 weeks ago

likeitis says:

"Yes, you are correct. There is a LOT MORE...but the parent in this case is reluctant to share the rest of the story." May 2, 2013 at 3:42 p.m.

"Yes, there is a LOT MORE to the story..." May 2, 2013 at 3:47 p.m.

"Much MUCH more..." May 2, 2013 at 3:49 p.m.

"Looking forward to the arrival of the "60 Minutes" crew next week!" May 2, 2013 at 3:53 p.m.

"Really? 5 times?" May 2, 2013 at 3:58 p.m.

"LOL! May 2, 2013 at 3:59 p.m.

"A few?" May 2, 2013 at 4:01 p.m.

The lady doth protest too much, methinks. I smell some smoke!

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KansasMinxDiva 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Let me make this abundantly clear. I would never have gone public with this if I didn't have a valid reason & proof to back it up. I have tried several times to get Joni to correct what was wrong. I have letters, documents & emails all proving the misconduct of Joni Appleman, the school nurse & the school secretary. They didn't take me serious & neither did Rick Doll the school districts Superintendent. I've requested a meeting with him twice now and both times he referred me back to the school districts liaison

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Linda Endicott 11 months, 2 weeks ago

When my daughter was in school, I was told that if I called in, or sent a note, that this meant it was an excused absence...the only unexcused absences were if the child didn't show up for class and there was no explanation at all...

Why has this changed?

I still think threatening to have someone's child taken away is an appalling practice, and it shouldn't be allowed...

Isn't it kind of funny how school has gone from something that most kids didn't have a chance to go to, but dreamed of being able to, and now they're forced to go there?

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KansasMinxDiva 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Excused absences & Tardies don't get you turned in to SRS for truancy. Only unexcused absences that are 1 hour or more & that is deemed by the Principal. That is what this article is about. Problem is that in my daughters case the Principal & her staff did not follow proper procedure & when spoken to about it refusesd to correct it.

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usesomesense 11 months, 2 weeks ago

So many seem to be missing the point - the mother did what she thought she was supposed to do. She called the school and the school never bothered to inform the parent that it was unexcused. Furthermore the school never informed her (which at the very least should result in a form letter) that if the child exceeded a specific number of absences it would be reported to SRS. As an employer, when I have staff that shows up late to work it is my responsibility to write them up for being late and have them sign off that they understand the potential consequences if it continues. If I fail to meet those responsibilities and fire the employee the state will unquestionably pay their unemployment claim even if they were chronically late or absent (which means higher unemployment rates that I have to pay).
I know what migraines can be like - and those of you that say you have them and it's no excuse, you've clearly self diagnosed, been mis-diagnosed or at the very least must have the absolutle mildest migraines there are. Every migraine med I have tried has either resulted in delaying the migraine for a couple of hours only to have it rebound worse or result in side effects for me that the bottle says to discontinue use immediately if you have them. Simple communication was all that was required. Instead the schools administration is either too lazy to attempt to communicate, specifically chose to allow the absences to quietly accumulate to create the situation or just plain screwed up by not communicating. The policy itself may not be that unsound, but the execution does absolutely no justice to the child or parent - nor the district. If the school had sent out letters to the parent informing them of the unexcused absences and potential consequences there wouldn't be a story here.

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jhawk1998 11 months, 2 weeks ago

There was an excellent article in Family Circle about the importance of teaching children punctuality. Children that develop tendencies to be tardy have less success later in life. Not to mention the distraction to other children when a child constantly arrives late.

If tardies shouldn't be at issue why don't we just cancel school hours and tell kids to show up when they want?

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Linda Endicott 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I was appalled to find out that five absences could be deemed an offense that SRS could use to try and take someone's child away from them...

Really? Five tardies in seven months? Even if they had actually been full absences, that seems pretty extreme to me...out of how many school days a year? 180 or something? I get more days off than that a year at my job...and I don't necessarily have to have an excuse at all...I'm entitled to so many days, regardless of the reason...I also get four weeks of vacation time a year, not just personal days...

It seems to me that schools could grant a little more leeway here before they start threatening to have SRS yank your child away...is there a quota for foster care that I'm unaware of?

I can't think of an experience more terrifying and confusing for a small child...in fact, it could be enough to make her start going to school simply out of fear, which will guarantee that she probably won't learn as much while she's there...how many times, as a child, were any of you "responsibility" people ever threatened with losing contact with your mother? How would it have made you feel?

It just seems cruel and extreme to me...and I'm very thankful that my child is no longer of school age anymore...

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James Minor 11 months, 2 weeks ago

If District 497 allows each school in the district to determine their own absentee and truancy policy that is a failure mode. One policy should used for all schools in the district. The earlier grades K - 5 should be more lenient due to these kids are more dependent on parents taking them to and from school. One thing Lawrence doesn't want to happen is for parents to start making their kids walk to school when they can't take them at such an early age. It will be interesting to read the response from the school district. Maybe, there is a different story from their side.

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jafs 11 months, 2 weeks ago

To throw this insanity into a clear frame, consider that kindergarten isn't even required.

So, a parent who doesn't send their kid to kindergarten is a fine parent, but one who does and is occasionally late is reported to KDCF??

If what kids are learning in kindergarten is so important and necessary, then we should require attendance. And, if not, we shouldn't make such a big deal about a few late arrivals.

Frankly, if we care about education, attendance is the wrong thing to focus on at any level. I'd rather have a child come to school half the time and get A's and B's than come all of the time and get C's.

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ferrislives 11 months, 2 weeks ago

tomatogrower: Although you may have some valid points, they're lost when you start talking about "girls dressed like hookers". Please remember, we are talking about a Kindergartener here, so we should keep this in perspective.

We are talking about a school district that gives each school and its Principal the right to each have their own rules about absences, whether they're excused or not. As the article says, Deerfield's handbook states "...all absences are unexcused except those for illness of the student, death in the immediate family, and exceptionally urgent reasons that affect the student."

Quail Run's states "sickness of a student, severe affliction in the family, exposure to infectious or contagious diseases, observances of religious holidays or extremely inclement weather are examples of legitimate excuses for nonattendance or tardiness. Examples of unexcused absences include trips or vacations."

And apparently Langston Hughes' "offers no specific examples of an excused absence, but advises parents that, "children who have had fevers should be fever-free for 24 hours before they return."

This problem is about leadership from the top down. The Superintendent needs to create one district-wide policy for all students, and not leave something like reporting a 5-6 year old to Child & Family Services up to each Principal unless it's a real case of neglect or abuse.

"True" truancy absolutely needs to be monitored and addressed, because it can be a sign of problems for the child at home. But as you can see from several other posters on here, a lot of parents have experienced a real lack of communication (to say the least) with this "Principal" and some of her staff, and where there's smoke there's usually fire. It should be investigated.

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tomatogrower 11 months, 2 weeks ago

So what do all of you suggest? Schools are not allowed to discipline children anymore. Kids come to school not dressed for the weather and girls dressed like hookers, they haven't had breakfast, they haven't been taught to say please and thank you, they speak disrespectfully to adults, and they don't want to do any work at school, but parents complain when they have homework. Then you blame the teachers and the school system when your kid is a failure and living in your basement at 30 years old. Do your job. Make sure your child is healthy, get them to school on time. Be responsible, and quit blaming the system. Or keep your kid home and home school them. Schools are for educating children for the real world. Arriving on time is part of the real world. Time to grow up.

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momof2 11 months, 2 weeks ago

KansasMinxDiva

Don't stop here at the paper. Take it every where the news the school board and the SI. Take it all the way to the state.

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notajayhawk 11 months, 2 weeks ago

The law really needs to be tightened up to give principals less discretion. My daughter (not in the Lawrence district but nearby) missed a lot of school over the winter due to a recurrent set of flu symptoms. Most of those absences involved doctor's visits but since her pediatrician is 20 miles away, sometimes I just kept her home. Our district policy states that an illness is excused if the parent says they're sick, and further that a doctor's note is "suggested" for absences of five days or more. But the principal decided that because she had missed more than the average number of days (duh - about half the kids will be above the average!), from then on she needed a doctor's excuse for any absence of even a single day.

It's all about the money - the state pays the district by how many days the kid is sitting in the chair. Fine, I get that, but you can't have principals not only ignoring the written district policies, but changing the rules for specific students mid-year.

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jafs 11 months, 2 weeks ago

The school didn't mention any attempts to help the parent, which wouldn't be subject to confidentiality issues.

I am disturbed by both the policies and the attitude of the school here. An hour lateness doesn't reasonably equate to a half day absence for me, and saying they're just following the rules when they have discretion, and define what constitutes "unexcused" absence is untrue.

Many people seem comfortable with the idea that schools are training people to fit into society and be good little workers - I find that uncomfortable and would prefer that they teach people how to learn/analyze/think critically.

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Kathy Getto 11 months, 2 weeks ago

The bottom line here is doing everything possible to have students in the classroom learning. There may very well be more to the story as I would hope the entire district believes this to be important enough to take an extra step to help the STUDENT. If that involves helping the parent(s), so be it. I find it hard to believe the school did not make contact before it came to filing a truancy report.

Excerpt from a 2008 article:

"At elementary schools, administrators also tap into resources to work with families who have chronically absent students, said New York School Principal Nancy DeGarmo.

Schools are accountable each year for attendance rates, and they work to keep improving each year, she said.

It is logical for illness to account for a certain percentage, but principals work to curb other absences. Especially at schools with more lower-income families, it can require working with them on finding rides to school or even temporarily providing city bus passes if the family car breaks down, DeGarmo said.

"It's just a matter of finding out what the parent needs," she said."

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tomatogrower 11 months, 2 weeks ago

When I worked as a para, we had parents take their kids out of school to go on a cruise. Teachers had to try and find time to prepare work for the kids to do to stay caught up during vacation. The kids many times didn't do any of the work, then the parents complained, because their kid's grade dropped.

I was a single mother at one time, and fortunately never had health problems, but there are groups that can help, if you don't have family and friends in town. Why not ask the teacher to connect with some of the other mothers to car pool the kids? You have to explain the situation and have the guts to say "I need some help. Who do you know who can help me?" Get to know the parents of your child's classmates, then do favors for them, and ask them to do favors for you. If you ask the principal for solutions and he/she blows you off, go to the superintendent and ask for help. Do you have a retired neighbor who could help? Rugged individualism is a crock. Don't fall for it. Get to know people and develop a support system.

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jafs 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Well, I contacted the school, and expressed my concerns.

They said that there was more to the story, but they can't reveal it because of confidentiality and legal issues.

If true, that's unfortunate, because it means we can't form an educated opinion about this.

They also said they're just following the rules, but it's clear that there's discretion involved here, on the part of individual schools and principals. I have a call into the district about one of the rules they mentioned - according to them, an hour lateness is considered a half-day absence (to an all day kindergarten class) by district regulation.

I am saddened to see such draconian rules in our district, and such strict policies by local schools - I generally support public education and teachers against critics, but I find this objectionable.

Also, the parent in this situation can make all of the details available if she wants to, and that would be helpful. If her child was an hour late 14 times, that would qualify as 7 unexcused absences by district rules, given the strict definition of unexcused by Deerfield.

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ATR920 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Shocking! Parents are being held accountable and they dont like it! Yet they want the teachers and principals held acountable for everything. So if this little girl or boy starst falling behind because mom cant get out of bed in the morning then thats the teachers fault...

Accountablitiy has to start with the parents before it can be placed on the schools. Bottom line get your kid in school or homeschool them yourself!

And for all the people who are stating that "it's just kingergarten" you obviously have no clue about education. K and pre-K education has found to be one of the most important times in a child's education -thus the push for Pre-K and K education in low economic areas.

For some of you this also may be a wake up call, a lot issues like this are popping up and are going to be worse if you continue to elect leaders who cut education or if you just choose not to vote! Im sure if you could stick your kid on a bus you would have avoided this situation but there is no $ for busses. Also Im sure the school has had to cut pretty much all of its attendance staff so now it is in the hands of individual principals and secretaries.

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robinlc 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I have had concerns for awhile about children getting to school safely and on-time due to the bus program being cut. It seems the lack of busing to school would be most difficult for families with children at multiple schools, families without cars, single parents, and those with medical issues who are unable to drive. I also believe the school could have put forth some effort to help Tracy find another family in her neighborhood to carpool with - lets help find solutions to difficult situations, rather than be punitive. Then, if the child was still late to school, we would know that there is more to the story on the part of the mother.

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flutter 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I am completely dismayed by the number of people who are attacking the parent in this situation. She seems to have done everything by the handbook. I agree that being 1 hour late should not constitute a complete day's absence. Any logical, reasonable person would agree.

My concern is that the 6-year-old child is being charged and forced to go to court herself. That is just sick. How traumatic for such a young child! And for such a petty situation. The principal should be completely ashamed of herself for subjecting such a young child to such a horrible situation. I'm completely appalled.

Also, for all of you insisting that this parent should have a back-up for school transportation.......it's not always that easy. You don't know her situation. Perhaps she has no family here, no friends whose schedules allow for them to help in this way, and no reliable or trustworthy neighbors. She may not even know her neighbors; it's not uncommon to not know neighbors, especially to not know them well enough to entrust your very young child to their care! It's often not that simple to get help. She seems to have been acting in a responsible manner...choosing not to drive because it was not safe for her to do so. The rigidity of some people's thinking is just absurd.

The school should have communicated better with this parent. Their actions are absolutely inexcusable. I lived in Lawrence for 18 years and moved to a nearby area a year ago. I have been wishing we would have stayed in Lawrence, but after reading this, I am so glad we moved so my kids will not have to deal with the Lawrence school district.

I second the previous poster's request for the LJWorld to do an investigative piece on why the schools are acting in this manner, particularly this principal. If it's true that this sort of ridiculousness is occurring so unfairly, things need to be brought to light so they can be made to change.

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momof2 11 months, 2 weeks ago

This is KG we are talking about which consist of play and socialization. At best learning the ABC's.

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momof2 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Why did this article avoid naming the person who has the power to correct this situation? Joni Appleman has been the principal at Deerfield since 2006. The people that fund her job (tax payers) should know that they can contact her at (785) 832-5660 and express their concerns.

http://usd497.org/Schools/Elementary/Deerfield/

Thank You for this Post. Ever since the old teacher left this school has gone to Hell in a hand basket. I might also add in all the years she has been there I have yet to hear one good thing about her. KG is not required by law... Kids are not going to remember being "late" at 5 years of age nor begin to start building work ethics. For those of you that think Migraines are "treatable" you must have never had one!!! Not only can they make your vision distorted which makes it impossible to drive but the meds. for these can make you have a number of side effects. When my kids were in school I had no option other than myself to get my kids to school. It isn't as cut and dry as you all seem to think. The problem begins and hopefully will end with finding a new Principal and getting rid of Joni Appleman once and for all. Did she ever warn the parent of calling SRS? This is something that will follow this women for a good long time. Joni is on a power trip and it is time the school district wakes up to the damage this Principal has caused. Wake up USD497 and fire this Principal one and for all!

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tomatogrower 11 months, 2 weeks ago

This parent is teaching their child that it's ok to be chronically late. Would you want to hire that kids when they grow up. I feel for the parent's health problems, but why didn't she find someone to take her daughter to school. She could have asked the school for help, if she didn't have any friends or relatives to help out. They could have found another parent to help out. What is wrong with people.

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Strawberry1 11 months, 2 weeks ago

The bigger issue here is that USD 497 gives building principals way too much autonomy. Each school has different rules, regulations and procedures. Those differences not only affect how attendance is counted, but how special education services are dispersed, how children are taught (homework versus no homework, multiple-choice speling tests versus traditional spelling tests, etc.), and how parents receive information about their students' expected and actual progress. There is no consistency.

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Benjamin Roberts 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Why did this article avoid naming the person who has the power to correct this situation?

Joni Appleman has been the principal at Deerfield since 2006. The people that fund her job (tax payers) should know that they can contact her at (785) 832-5660 and express their concerns.

http://usd497.org/Schools/Elementary/Deerfield/

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Michele Trompeter 11 months, 2 weeks ago

There are many parents out there that don't have a valid excuse for not getting their kids to school on time, or not sending them at all on a regular basis. Let's get the story on what those kids are able to learn when they do not attend school like they should. This parent may have some valid reasons to be upset, but many others do not, yet they throw a fit and make threats when the school contacts them about truancy. LJW, dig into statistics and do a story on how those kids fall behind and how it affects their performance. Show how schools are held accountable for these situations that are beyond their control, yet parents are often not held accountable. Get the school's side of the story.

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usesomesense 11 months, 3 weeks ago

It's really quite simple. All of this could have easily been avoided with some very simple, honest communication from district staff. When a parent is calling in an absence and is approaching the limit it's plain old common courtesy (and common sense) to inform them what can happen. It's basic human decency to tell you neighbor if their house is on fire and this is no different. It's bad business when educators fail to educate - and this is proof of incompetence as an educator of this principal. Very bad publicity for the district - just plain embarrassing.

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windex 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Them, not thFedEx (bizarre auto fill!)

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windex 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Meanwhile, expect teachers to work miracles turning your kids into senators and brain surgeons while you can't even deliver thFedEx school fed, dressed, equipped and on time. Just drop the little darlings off whenever it's convenient for you and if the school ever dares to ask for some accountability on your part, blast away. And for what it's worth, I just don't believe the school nurse is doing "unwarranted medical checks" on students. I believe school nurses have their hands full giving out ADHD meds, dealing with injuries and vomit, doing paperwork, monitoring diabetics and dealing with sick kids who show up in the clinic.

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KansasMinxDiva 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Lets go this route, if I had a flat tire getting my daughter to school and I contacted the school and she was a hour late then that is considered a unexcused absence. School district 497 deems missing 1hour of school a significant portion of the day and can be recorded as absent for the whole day. Unexcused is what is reported for truancy. Anyone with children know that anything can happen unexpected. One friend was told that if she took her son out of.school to attend his Uncles funeral it would be marked as an unexcused absence. A teacher at.a different school pleaded with the office staff not.to mark a special needs student as unexcused due to a legal issue even though the parent notified the school and he was only a hour late. There are many more instances of parents & teachers horror stories.

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kansasdaughter 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Wow, so sad. I've had those auras leading into a migraine headache, pretty freaky. I am glad she decided to not drive. Too bad the administration couldn't be more understanding.

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Daniel Davidson 11 months, 3 weeks ago

My son lives with my exwife. She is suppost to be looking out for his best interest and I still have been contacted with a letter regarding my son missing school. I think the state needs to pull the kids from bad places and put them where they come first.

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jhawk1998 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Why are the parents surprised? Read the school handbook. Oh, and get your kids to school on time. No problems then

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KansasMinxDiva 11 months, 3 weeks ago

My word of advice to parents entering public school or private is to monitor your childs attendance record via Skyward & stay on top of it. I would hate for anymore parents to get blind sided like I did. This isn't over by a long shot & only part of a bigger problem with this Principal, her office staff & School Nurse.

I would like other parents that have children in the truancy diversion program that are from Deerfield school to please contact me.

Also if there have been any issues regarding your childs health & issues with unwarranted medical checks done by the Deerfield/Woodlawn School Nurse and Deerfield Secretary.

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snook3200 11 months, 3 weeks ago

it does not matter if u call the school, if your child is sick. after so many missed days that is that. period. the school does not care if you call. you must provide a doctors note after you miss so many days even if you provide a doctors note for the prior days missed. it is a mess. unfair. they need to be more clear. we provide a doctors note and that is fine. and then when we miss school for having loose stools, we have to go pay a doctor to get a doctors note, this is a joke, just so we are not turned into dcf. what about the teachers and principals, and nurses and staff, do we have the same policy for them. do we hold them to the same. or can they just miss school whenever they want. the school district needs to make sure the ones that are turning parents in are the ones that are following the same guidelines.

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Bobbi Reid 11 months, 3 weeks ago

For the last 2 years I have received the harrassing letters from my daughters school because of her attendance. She has stomach issues, and even though all of her absences were for illness, they still send out the letter and once the absences get to a certain number they require a dr's note for every day that she misses. It drives me crazy that I get these letters about her attendance. They need to figure out the reasons for a lot of these kids missing so much school. At the school my daughter attends, a lot of kids don't want to go because they are being bullied and the school does absolutely nothing about it.

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optimist 11 months, 3 weeks ago

In my family my children go to school unless they are physically ill (obvious symptoms) or are feverish. They miss very few days with the exception of appointments that can only be scheduled during school hours which are few and rare. I require them to make up any work that they missed to further reinforce the importance of being in school. That being said, as their parent, I! and or my wife decide when our children are excused from school and what is a valid reason for their absence. I generally do not provide enough details about their absences for the administration. Absent obvious signs of abuse or neglect it is none of their business what goes on in my family. If this were ever to happen to me I would pull my child out of the public school immediately to start and escalate from there.

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RubyVrooom 11 months, 3 weeks ago

This happened to our family too, although it was about 5 years ago and in a different Kansas town. In our case my easily-distracted 6th grade son was walking to school and often arriving late. I wasn't being notified. He was considered truant because of the tardies, absences weren't the problem at all. I just got a letter out of nowhere in the mail one day that included the language "It has been decided it is in the best interest of the child to be removed from the home."

Based on nothing other than late arrivals.

That I was not notified about.

We had to go to court, and it was decided that we had to go to family counselling weekly for a year.

This is a very traumatizing process for a family. Starting with the heart attack you have at the language of the letter. I believe schools should ABSOLUTELY be required to send out warning letters before it gets to this point. The letters should clearly state the guidelines, the consequences, and how many absences/tardies your student has. It is a pretty simple concept. Much easier than putting families through the truancy process, and surely much cheaper for the state too.

By the way Tracy, I have a kid at Deerfield right now. I hope this doesn't sound creepy but I will happily take your daughter to school along with mine if you need the help.

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ferrislives 11 months, 3 weeks ago

From personal experience, this "Principal" and her office staff are an absolute nightmare.

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gatekeeper 11 months, 3 weeks ago

The issues I don't see the parent addressing is why do you not have any kind of backup for when you aren't able to get her to school and why aren't you taking care of your migraine problem? Migraines are no excuse and I know first hand because I have lived with them for over 30 years. They are managable and can be easily treated if you take the time and effort to figure out what causes them. It is not only in your better interest, but your daughter's better interest for you to do this.

A job requires you to have reliable transportation to be employed and the same applies for you having a reliable way to get your kid to school. How about talking to your neighbors and other parents that have children in school there to find someone to pick up your daughter and get her to school if you are unable? You are the parent and it is your job to be responsible for your child. Stop blaming the system and step up and be the responsible adult. The least you could have done is call the school to explain the situation when you couldn't get her to class in time. I think the fact you didn't do this showed them that you didn't take your kid's education seriously and aren't being responsible. Teachers and school administrators don't contact SRS for fun. There are good reasons when they do.

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KansasMinxDiva 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I will also add this. According to Kansas statues an inexplainable absence is unexcused. The Kansas board of Education leaves it up to each school district and school district 497 leaves it to the discretion of the principles. Deerfield principle said that according to her school handbook that it is Kansas statue law what is deemed a excused or unexcused. I contacted the Kansas Board of education and they stated that is not true. The principle stated her hands were tied and that she could not change the unexcused absences on my daughters attendance record which was a bold face lie. Unfortunately the school principle is the only one that can have my daughter removed from the truancy program. SRS & the truancy program go based on what is reported by the schools & the schools are to report according to their handbooks which in my daughters case this did not happen.

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KansasMinxDiva 11 months, 3 weeks ago

There is a lot more to this story. School district 497 is the only one on the area that deems that a child a hour late can be recorded as absent for the whole day either excused or unexcused depending on what the principle thinks is valid. Not once did the secretary or principle of Deerfield school say that me contacting them that my daughter would be late due to my eye sight being affected because of a migraine would be recorded as unexcused and could end up being reported to SRS for truancy. I received a letter from the school that my.daughter had 7 unexcused absences. 5 were due to my daughter getting to school after 9am. According to Deerfield handbook those are considered half day absences but they filed them with SRS as full days. The other 2 days, was due to the nurse sending my daughter home because she doesn't know the difference between swollen inflamed tonsils & large ones. My daughter wasn't sick but yet the nurse didn't follow proper procedures in the Deerfield handbook and my daughter missed school and it was recorded as unexcused. This all occurred in Feb. In March I emailed the principle & secretary that my daughter wasn't feeling well. They recorded it as unexcused because they wanted to. I have 4 copies of my daughters attendance record & they are all different. I have met with the principle & have spoken to the school district liaison & have tried to speak & meet with the superintendent but I just keep getting referred back to the liaison. If the Deerfield principle & nurse followed the handbook they expect us parents to then none of this would have been a issue. They didn't want to take me serious so I went to the paper. I know I am not the only parent this has happened to & I wanted it exposed. My 6 yr old daughter who is in kindergarten has a criminal truancy hearing with the Asst DA in May & even the cofounder of the truancy program said for me to hire an attorney because the program was not designed for preschool or grade school children. This will go on my daughters juvenile record.

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In_God_we_trust 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Sounds like the laws on truancy have room to be relaxed; like force the school to make contact with the parents before any further steps are required. It sounds like the school really needs to communicate with parents in this case. The school is practicing hardball tactics with parents when it really needs to practice good communication skills instead. Public school has it's negative and positive points. In my opinion, if you can home school your children, or place them in a quality private school, your children are much, much better off than in public school, unless the local public school is of good quality and good teachers and teaches real education instead of liberal indoctrination.

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gatekeeper 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Here is my viewpoint. I used to teach and I suffer from migraines and have for 30 years.

First - migraines are treatable. There are good meds out there that can help knock them down quickly and still allow you to function. I've been on the same one since I was 14 years old. Migraines don't usually just hit you, there are signs that one is coming and you can take meds and do other things to control it before it knocks you down. There are also triggers for migraines - hormonal, certain foods, etc... You have to pay attn and track what you've done, eaten, drank, etc... and find out what is triggering them. If she isn't doing that, then she's not being responsible. I've been at the same job for over 10 years and have only had to take sick time 3 times for a migraine. My experience is that lots of people use migraines as an excuse. If she is so incapacitated that she can't get her kid to school, then she also isn't in any shape to be the caregiver for that child when she has a headache. Who's caring for the kid at those times?

Second - If you enroll your child in school, that child should be at school. Kids coming in late is a disruption to the entire class. Yes, this is just kindergarten, but much of what is learned in kindergarten is structure. It's not all skipping and playing, they do learn a lot. If it wasn't important, none of you would send your kids.

Third - any responsible parent would have a back-up plan in case something came up and they couldn't get their kid to school. If my best friends couldn't get their boys to school for some reason or couldn't pick them up, they have my husband and I ready to help. If you work in the schools you see that some parents just aren't responsible and will blame the school and teachers for everything. Often, the parents are the biggest problems, not the kids. It's one of the reasons I don't want to teach. Kids are easy, parents not so much.

I think there is A LOT more to this story and think it is bad journalism for the paper to only report her side of this story.

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jafs 11 months, 3 weeks ago

For God's sake, folks, we're talking about kindergarten here!

Not even required, and mostly more babysitting than any actual learning, as far as I know.

That a few late arrivals can be considered absences is absurd, and turning a parent into SRS for that is also absurd.

As others have mentioned, home schooling has virtually no requirements, and if this sort of nonsense pushes more people to home school their kids, that's a bad outcome.

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fmrl 11 months, 3 weeks ago

We are only getting the mother's side of the story here. Children who are the victims of neglect or poor parenting pay for it dearly later in life.

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oldbaldguy 11 months, 3 weeks ago

usually extended absences are an indicator of other problems in the family or with the child. communications with the school is very important. you do not want the state in your business because of truancy if at all possible.

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jhawkinsf 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Where the heck is the father and why can't he take the child to school when the mother cannot?

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CalitoNY 11 months, 3 weeks ago

wow! too bad 497 can't spend this much time and get print in the ljworld for all of the bullying in the schools. oh....but of course it doesn't occur, i forgot. let's call it girl drama (even tho there's threats) and then red flags won't go up for Lawrence 497!! turn your heads.....

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friendlyjhawk 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Sorry the lady has migraines but she is still responsible for getting the child to school on time. If she has friends perhaps they could help on those morning she is disabled with migraines. And that poor kid was sent home from school one time for possible strept throat? Wow, that school nurse should be whipped for not buying those medical supplies that would show immediately if the kid had strep? Sounds like the same kind of mother who would be up in arms over her kids visit to the nurse if she wasn't notified. Bet all those horror stories alluded to by the other folks who posted have validity also because they said it was true. Buck up parents and do your job and that job is being responsible for your child. The second largest problem in schools is poor, lazy parenting.

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seventeen 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Meanwhile...I'm struggling with my teenager's attendance and grades - practically begging for help and intervention and get nothing from the school. I know it's my responsibility, but it does take a village. When that village ignores someone who could be in college in a year and punishes a little girl, I'm very disappointed. Hopefully this story will bring about some consistency and changes within the district.

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momof2 11 months, 3 weeks ago

This is one of the reason I moved my kids to Sunset Hill. I have heard this story of her calling SRS. before. When Boardwalk apartments burned to the ground years back a family had to temporally move due to fire and she refused to let the child get back into Deerfield. My advise run don't walk and get into another school. Something like this does not warrant SRS being called to the home. Frankly I find it hard to believe this Principal is still working period.

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snitty 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Truancy in kindergarten. It's important to catch these little criminals early, so they can be taken from their parents and placed in one of our fine correctional institutions.

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Hardhawk1 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Pick up the phone and either call the school or a friend/relative to take the child to school. A lot less hassle than the diversion program. But, the easy excuse is to blame the school and/or principal rather than accept responsibility as a parent. If the parent has a medical issue, that is more reason to have a "plan B" transportation plan in place in advance.

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rlsd 11 months, 3 weeks ago

And it sounds like there is much more to the story, politics, they are everywhere.....

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Les Blevins 11 months, 3 weeks ago

"The bottom line is that it's important for students to be in school in order to learn," superintendent Rick Doll said. Therefore there is no reason for schools to send students home early that can be justified as a 'normal' course of action.

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Les Blevins 11 months, 3 weeks ago

At Deerfield School, which Meisenheimer's daughter attends, the handbook states that all absences are unexcused except those for "illness of the student, death in the immediate family, and exceptionally urgent reasons that affect the student" therefore the mother's inability to drive qualifies as an urgent reason.

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usesomesense 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Unfortunately some principals are more interested in disciplining parents instead of creating a good learning environment for students. While I'm a firm believer in punctuality especially during the early years of setting an example for our children, I'm also empathetic (a quality that is an absolute requirement for a principal - and completely absent in this particular principal) when it comes to medical and psychiatric issues. I think it's particularly relevant that kindergarten isn't required and if it's still only a half day it is also quite inconvenient - you basically get home, brush your teeth and turn around and pick your kid up again or pay someone else to do it for you. The bigger question is this: How did the principal communicate BEFORE calling the authorities? At all? Did they explain "If your daughter is late two more times SRS will be called and this is what will happen". I'd be surprised. A well informed parent is far more likely to prevent a problem.

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Matthew Herbert 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Teaching your children early and modeling for them the importance of school (and necessarily attendance) cannot be overvalued. Modeling for your children that attitude that school is a bad place out to get them and to "make their life hell" will not be a lesson easily forgotten by the child.

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Loretta James 11 months, 3 weeks ago

my grandkids got caught up in this they wound up in court this was their option QUIT school or run the risk of being removed from your home. So glad they are done with school there is so much bullying in lawrence schools one event happened right in front of me and school counselor what happened my grandson got suspended for telling kid to leave him alone or he was going to hurt him the other kid said im going to kill you. and nothing was done. home schooling looks better and better now days.

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Steven Gaudreau 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I'm not buying the moms story. All she had to do was call in and say her child was sick. Btw Tracy, if u read this, my sisters migraines were caused by hormonal imbalance which she found out after a dozen docs and meds for 10 yrs.

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Liberal 11 months, 3 weeks ago

An athlete can miss many hours of school and be "excused" yet if a parent decides that a child stays home with permission and their grades are good can be sent to SRS as a result of an arbitrary decision by a principal.

You can home school and have your child never attend a class.

It is a total crock of caca...If a student is legitimately a truant not in school without parental permission than that is a different story.

Go ahead and ask how much time athletes miss school. Total hypocrisy.

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eugunieum 11 months, 3 weeks ago

How come I had a bunch of students with 20 or more absences? No one seemed to care. With some of them, I kind of liked it when they were gone!

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James Minor 11 months, 3 weeks ago

It seems like there needs to be a clearer definition from the school district on what is "Absent" and what is "Late". There also needs to be one standard policy for all schools and not individual ones at each school.

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Amy Heeter 11 months, 3 weeks ago

The state sure is counting those beans.

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dragonfly0221 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Is kindergarten even required in Kansas? It didn't used to be.

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wolflover1969 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Yet nobody cares if children are home schooled by parents that didn't even finish middle school. You have got to love Kansas!

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