Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Bates Family: Academic achievement without perfect attendance

I am the mother of three school age children that are enrolled in Millard Schools in Omaha, Nebraska. Both my husband and I are VERY concerned about the “school attendance” law passed in 2010 and the expansion of it in 2011. From what I have read, the intent of the law is to improve “educational outcomes” by implementing policies that shoot for near perfect attendance.

My 7th grade daughter is a straight A student, 2 years ahead in Math and in honors English. Earlier this year she took the ACT (special invite from Duke University) and scored a 28, which is amazing. This is a higher score than most 11th graders, let alone a 12 year old 7th grader. In no way are my 3 children falling behind in any subject. All three of my children are very good students.

The fear of being prosecuted or coming under scrutiny from Dept. of Family Service has caused me and my friends to change the way we parent our children. I believe it is in the best interest of children to allow their parents to be parents and make decisions for the family unit.

There have been times when I have determined that my children would benefit more from an enrichment opportunity within the community or as a result of travel then they would be harmed by the school they would miss to seize the opportunity. Education and becoming a well rounded individual just doesn’t come from sitting in a class room taking tests and doing work sheets. I believe that a child’s education is enriched by having hands on experiences, like museums, cultural events, speaking and spending time with their elders, learning from them, traveling and having family time. The best educational experience in life are rarely “provided” by public schools.

My family took some additional days at spring break last year to travel. We visited with distant family, attended a family wedding, witnessed the birth of a new nephew, participated in a religious conference where my children were exposed to uplifting messages, visited a art museum, hiked in a national park, and took a tour of a humanitarian center to learn how we can better serve in our community to help those in need. These were experiences were well worth a few days out of the classroom and will help them become upstanding citizens and add depth to their education.

I think public school is the best way to educate my children. Generally it offers quality scholastic and social learning opportunities. I hope to continue to participate with our public schools. However because of this law home schooling may become our only option.

I do not believe I have been an irresponsible parent or neglectful of my children’s education. My children’s academic standing should be adequate proof of it. If my children miss school, we (both me and my student) gather the missed work from the teacher and get it turned in within a day or so of returning to school. If necessary, they go in before school or stay after to make up anything that they miss. My children don't skip school, they aren't EVER truant. If they are out of school, they do have permission from me, their parent.

Why should I feel anxiety over winter coming and the possibility of my children missing too much school for the common cold? Why should my children miss family reunions, Thanksgiving or Christmas with grandma because of this law? Where did common sense go?

I am very sad that we are becoming a country where the micro-managing of our everyday lives by government is becoming acceptable. Nebraska’s new attendance law has gone too far and usurped the natural rights of parents in our state. Please restore what we have lost.

Christine Bates
Millard School District
Omaha, Nebraska

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