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Parent opposes HPS school attendance policy


January 23, 2017

Havre High School’s attendance policy has caused controversy for some students and parents who say the policy keeps students who are passing from graduating.  

The problem, parent Amanda Powell said, is that it’s unfair to revoke credits from students like her son Skylar Powell, for a class he is passing just because it violates the attendance policy. His passing grade indicates that her son has demonstrated a sufficient grasp of the subject, and more important, she said, Skylar’s speech class is the difference between her son graduating and not.

Skylar, and other students who said they are in danger of losing credits due to attendance issues for classes they were passing, addressed the board of trustees Jan. 10 during the public comment portion of the meeting, asking the trustees to intervene on behalf of the students with passing grades but too many absences.

“If they’re passing under their own power, don’t revoke their credits,” Powell asked the trustees.

Powell, after the meeting, said that she had reason to believe that anywhere between 25 and 30 percent of seniors would not graduate because of an attendance policy that didn’t take passing grades into consideration.

Havre Public Schools Superintendent Andy Carlson said Friday he could not comment on any individual student. Carlson did say that a student throughout their high school stretch can earn 28 credits but needs only 22.5 to graduate.

One failed class does not keep any student from graduating, he said. The 30 percent number is not accurate — there are not that many seniors in danger of not graduating because they’re failing classes only because of attendance policy violations, Carlson said.

Havre High School Vice Principal Jeremiah Nitz, who also said he could not comment on any individual student, referred to the attendance policy.

The policy, as outlined in the student handbook, says students are allowed 10 unexcused absences per class. The handbook says that after the fifth and seventh absences, parents or guardians receive a note that says how many classes their student has missed and what the attendance policy is.

“After reaching the 10th absence, an attendance meeting will be held,” the handbook says.

During that meeting, Carlson said, the committee can give some “leeway,” or offer extensions.

Powell said Wednesday that the attendance committee decided to uphold the policy regarding Skylar’s absences.

Powell said she understands her son is not a “model student” and that she makes no excuses for her son’s 19 absences. She added that some of those absences, at least three of them, were tardies, but because of the extent of lateness, it counts as an absence. Her son wants to be a welder, she said, and she hopes something will change Feb. 14, when the issue will be brought before the school board.


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