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New Trier News

The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

Attendance policy raises concerns

Allow students to take matters into their own hands, rather than enforcing unjust punishments
New Trier News Editorial

Editorial note: At the end of last semester, the New Trier News editorial board wrote in favor of a stricter attendance policy. We acknowledge that last spring’s Staff Editorial contradicts the thesis of the editorial that follows. However, in light of the new attendance policy and how it has been carried out, we have used new experiences and perspectives to amend our previously published stance. It is also important to acknowledge that our opinions have changed considering this year’s editorial board is almost entirely made up of new members.

In a desperate attempt to fix the rise of chronic absenteeism, New Trier High School introduced a new attendance policy for the 2023-24 school year. It seeks to chip away at a shocking figure: 25% of students missed more than 10% of their classes last year. 

With this in mind, it is obvious that the attendance policy needs to change. However, we understand that we are in no place to propose a new policy to the school. Rather, the position we are taking is that there is no need for an attendance policy at all. 

The policy introduces some sweeping measures, ranging from a new intervention in advisery tardies to the stripping of credit when a student misses 15 40-minute periods of one particular class. A new sign-in/sign-out method hinders students’ ability to leave campus freely, and only seniors are now allowed to go out—only on foot—to lunch. Even Kinetic Wellness classes, after a certain number of absences, must be made up.

The necessity of a new attendance policy is obvious—school, after all, is only an enriching experience when students are in class and learning. However, the measures imposed by the administration to combat the attendance problem do not properly address the issue and require change. 

The main issue we have with the attendance policy is that it does not distinguish between excused and unexcused absences. For example, if a student is out sick with COVID for multiple weeks, they will take a significant chunk out of the 15-period absences that they were permitted and will be forced to suffer the consequences. There is no way for the school to separate this case from one in which a student simply ditched 15 classes and actually deserves substantial punishment.  

Reasonable people can agree that these two students should not be associated with the same category of punishment. Only one has actually committed an offense in the form of deliberately avoiding class, yet in the eyes of New Trier, both must be punished. 

As stated previously, students only reap the benefits of school when they are present in the classroom; when they are absent, they are deprived of the ability to fully grasp the material and ask questions about areas of confusion. And, as a consequence, their grades start to slip.

So, let the punishment for poor attendance be exactly that. If a student misses material that was covered in class, the consequence is implicit—their grades will start to fall. There is no need for superfluous punishment, intervention with parents, or detention. No elaborate sign-in and sign-out system is required. Simply put, if you miss class, you will not succeed, and that in itself is a punishment sufficient to improve attendance. 

But what if a chronically absent student’s grades do not fall? What if they manage to keep up even though they are not in school?

Then, the discussion must turn toward the teachers. If a student can earn an A in a class without being there, it can only mean that the material being taught in the classroom is not essential enough. It means that the classroom experience can be replicated elsewhere—on YouTube, Khan Academy, or AP Classroom, for example—and is not required for academic success.

The solution is simple: rather than compel attendance through a new policy that very few students comprehend, just make school more consequential and difficult to miss. 

Now, excused absences would have to be treated on a case-by-case basis, as no punishment should be laid down for a valid extended absence. But for those who are signing themselves out and for those who are missing class simply for the sake of missing class, let them punish themselves. Do not force an arbitrarily created attendance policy on them. Let them face the consequences of their own actions.

Long after our time at New Trier is done and many of us are college students, there will be no one to hold our hand and guide us into each classroom that we step in. There will be no adviser, no adviser chair, and most importantly, no attendance policy. Only the force of our own ambition and our individual will to succeed can make us show up on time. So, let high school prepare us for that experience. Let our formative days set us up for our future beyond high school, and get rid of the attendance policy. 

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