New law cracks down on school absences - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

New law cracks down on school absences

Valdosta - A new Georgia law is cracking down on school absences. "After the fifth unexcused absence, we may make a referral through the social worker to juvenile court or after the 10th excused absence we may make a referral to juvenile court," said Dr. Steve Smith, Lowndes County Schools Superintendent.

The state law won't take effect until next school year, but the Lowndes County School system implemented the new absentee system this year in hopes of boosting their attendance numbers. Once a student reaches three unexcused absences, social worker Sandra Wilcher sends a note home to their parents asking them to call her. "On that phone call we'll discuss what's going on, if they've just forgotten to send notes in, if there's a problem in the family," said Wilcher.

If she finds the student was sick, or there's a legitimate reason for the absences, the student will likely be excused. But often times, the reasons aren't acceptable. "Students are staying home to babysit, sometimes in migrant situations its to interpret for their families," said Wilcher.

School administrators say the new system has made a huge difference in attendance. "Overall in the school system last year, just over seven percent missed 15 days or more, this year, just over two percent have missed more than 15 days," said Wilcher.

And the key to keeping your kids out of court is communicating with the school system. "Everyday a child is absent, they need to send a not explaining the absence," said Smith.

Dr. Smith says the system isn't designed to punish parents and students, its meant to keep kids in the classroom and give them the highest quality of education.

posted by ashley.harper@walb.com

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