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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pasco teachers to gain flexibility in dealing with unexcused absences

With a few minor wording changes, the Pasco County School Board is poised to give teachers more discretion in deciding the consequences for students who have unexcused absences.

In the latest edition of the Student Code of Conduct, which goes to the board for final approval on Tuesday, students with excessive unexcused absences "may" face penalties such as a ban on participating in school sports and other extracurricular activities. "The principal or designee may review extenuating circumstances resulting in a loss of privilege(s)," the document reads.

The 2015-16 version, by contrast, says a student "shall" lose privileges.

The revised code also gives students and teachers more time to complete assignments missed because of excused absences, while remaining silent on whether teachers may allow students to make up work from unexcused absences. Administrators have asked to treat all absences the same for makeup work, while board members have been divided.

The absence of language on that issue leaves matters open ended, for those in the classrooms and schools to decide.

"That gives teachers the flexibility to deal with it," said board member Steve Luikart, a retired teacher and assistant principal. "When you put things in writing, sometimes it is more a hindrance than helpful."

Luikart said he preferred a system that holds students accountable for their learning, and leaves space for education professionals to do their jobs. He expected to support the revisions.

So, too, did board member Alison Crumbley. But Crumbley put forth that having no direction on assignments and unexcused absences could create too much inconsistency, something other board members have worried about in the past.

"We shouldn't leave it that wide open," she said, suggesting she would bring the issue up at the board's meeting Tuesday. "Hopefully the five of us can come to terms on that part."

Experts have said that schools should not punish students academically for situations such as absences, which might be beyond their control. The Pasco School Board has debated this issue for two years without resolution.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 12:23pm]


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