Wednesday, February 17, 2021

When Schools Punish Sick Kids for Poor Attendance - The Atlantic

When Schools Punish Sick Kids for Poor Attendance - The Atlantic
Are We Finally Done Encouraging Sick Kids to Come to School?

Staying home to avoid catching and spreading the coronavirus during the pandemic, for all the fear and anxiety it has caused, has come with one unexpected benefit for my family: My kids haven’t been sick once, not even with the common cold. My husband and I noticed this with a sense of relief after months of virtual schooling. We’re extremely fortunate that none of us have caught the coronavirus, but on top of that, our days and weeks hadn’t been upended by multiple colds or the flu over the past year. No missed work. No hospital bills. No sleepless nights.

During my oldest daughter’s kindergarten and first-grade years, I sent her to school several times with a runny nose or a slight cough, just like the parents of many of her classmates did. She was permitted to attend school as long as she was fever-free without the use of any medicine for 24 hours. But she has asthma, and it got progressively worse each grade, landing her in the hospital nearly every time she came down with “just a cold,” causing her to miss up to five days of school at a time, four times a year. Even if her asthma wasn’t flaring up during an infection, I had to monitor her closely for signs of an impending attack and administer several medications at precise times throughout the day. I didn’t want to sacrifice my child’s well-being to meet attendance expectations. So I started keeping her home, which meant playing catch-up with her assignments later.

Schools place a premium on attendance because it is associated with academic performance. Studies have shown that chronic absenteeism in middle school and high school hinders academic achievement and outcomes later in life, such as graduation rates and job opportunities. Less is known about the effects of frequent absences on elementary students, but a 2015 report out of the University of Wisconsin at Madison evaluated the impacts of first-grade absences on third- CONTINUE READING: When Schools Punish Sick Kids for Poor Attendance - The Atlantic