From: Laura Eliason
To: Laura Eliason,
Subject: SB45 CONCERN
Date: Wed Mar 02 04:11:32 MST 2016
Body:
I am a 5th grade public school teacher with a concern about SB45 that I would like to share with you.
 
I am currently working with a student who has been absent 41 days and late 24 days (late sometimes means checked in 25 minutes before the end of the day) this year.  Just today he was in attendance less than half of the day.  In a meeting the mother said half of these times the child was not sick. This past absence, she kept him home because he was “feeling down”.  This mother does not help the child complete any absent work (or any regular homework) with her child at all.  When I asked why, the child says he does not do any work because he is “addicted to video games”.  Other students see this child out at recreational facilities and events after having missed that day at school.   I dealt with a similar case last school year, and the year before that one, where there was a child who missed 1-2 days each week every week.  In dealing with a parent who does nothing at home, it takes several days of fitting in time to catch the child up, only to have it start again with another absence.  Many days I feel like Sisyphys, rolling the boulder uphill only to have it roll back down again.
 
I understand that parents might take their children out for vacations or family events. I LOVE when my students get to go out and experience the world. Students of those parents, however, have parents who meet with me before, get the homework, and make sure it is completed
 
The concern I have is with parents who chronically keep their children home. It is DIFFICULT for kids to miss school. When they come back, even the top students have an adjustment as they get back into the swing of things.  Though I do my best to lovingly encourage the student to just do what they can and I will help them catch up, some get overwhelmed and there are tears of stress throughout the day. 
 
Absences ARE hard on children.  It creates even MORE stress for the student who misses a day or two or more every week.  Many lessons build on the work of prior days, and even with work aside, the student with chronic absences suffers socially. 
 
I have had students kept home to babysit younger children, which means a ten year old is having to miss school to be in charge of younger children.  This happens with students in grades lower than mine as well, meaning children nine and younger are left home to babysit other children.  There are several classrooms in my small school alone that have students who miss one to two days every single week for various reasons that do not involve illness, vacations, or family events.  In these cases, the parents are NOT making sure that learning is supported through absences.  The children are suffering academically and emotionally when they miss this much school.
 
We DO need a law to protect our children from parents who create situations where a child is missing this much of their schooling.  Not only do we need this to help students with their learning, we need this to keep children safe. Some are being kept home without having adult supervision; sometimes also being expected to take care of younger children as well. I had one student who was regularly brought to school late, and when asked, her story of why she was late would be different than the adult’s story.  In that case I suspected a situation of abuse was happening.  We need to protect these children.
 
When there is talk of teacher accountability, and test scores are being reported and published, there is no exception made for students who miss a certain amount of the school year.  I am supposed to teach 100% of the curriculum (and reteach as needed) to a child who misses 35% of the school year?  I am accountable with published test scores, but parents are not accountable for getting their child to school to allow me to teach them?  Even the smartest children can’t learn from lessons they miss, and even the best teacher can’t teach a child who is not present.
 
Laura Eliason
414 E. 900 S.
Centerville, UT