After the COVID-19 pandemic, frequent absenteeism in school became incredibly normalized. At the time of the pandemic, it was often justified. Students were sick themselves or had family members that were ill and that led to frequently missing school. Even when everything was remote, students often had to miss school for these reasons. However, when people started going back in person and classes resumed that way, after the pandemic was considered over, the high numbers of absenteeism continued. Schools have been trying to find various ways to combat this, and Charlotte-Mechlenburg Schools have come up with a tactic that has thus far proven successful.
The schools have found that as a result of the years of absenteeism, the student scores are quite low.
After pinpointing the issue of absenteeism as responsible for the low scores, the district set forth to create a plan of action to better student attendance. They settled on an attendance policy that focuses on getting to the root of the absenteeism and, on a case-by-case basis, bringing forth a criminal prosecution case against the child’s parents. This is done on a case-by-case basis as there are some cases in which the attendance problems of the student are not due to neglect from the parent.
Essentially, the way the policy will work is after a student has 10 unexcused absences, they will be flagged for investigation. The staff will intervene and get to the root of the problem, come up with resolutions to the attendance issue, and speak with the parents. If at that point they deem the issue resolved and the student not in dire circumstances, then no criminal charges will be brought forth. However, if they do believe the student is in dire circumstances, or the issue continues on a large scale, then charges will be filed.
While Charlotte has been working on their local plan, the federal government has been working on a national resolution as well.
According to the U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, “chronic absenteeism has increased” after the pandemic. The Biden Administration is working to provide grant money to fight the absenteeism. They nearly doubled the Full-Service Community School Grant over two years in order to provide more funding for programs that support families in need in order to keep as many students safely going to school.