After inquiries from the Burlingame B, Principal Paul Belzer has reviewed the California Education Code 46012 and has decided to bring back the former practice that allows 18-year-old students to call themselves out of class, effective immediately.
The code states that “for purposes of any procedure for verification of absences from school, a student 18 years of age or over, with respect to his own absences from school, shall have all of the responsibilities and powers which, in the case of a minor, would be charged to the parent, guardian, or other person having charge or control of the minor.”
At the beginning of the school year, many senior students were disappointed to find out that the attendance rule that previously allowed 18-year-olds to excuse themselves out of class had been suspended.
Senior Steven Giammona, who turned 18 this November, expressed his frustrations with the new rule.
“I found out that the rule would not be used right when I started my senior year,” Giammona said. “Since then, I haven’t tried to call myself out. However, I think students should be allowed to sign themselves out when they’re 18. When you’re 18, you’re an adult.”
The administration explained that there were many students who had abused this rule in the past and absences had spiked significantly for students who had reached the age of the majority.
Once Belzer realized the contradiction that was posed by the new rule, he decided to return to once again allow 18-year-olds to verify their own absences.
“The board policy says students need to be cleared by parents,” Belzer said. “However, the administrative regulations do allow for 18-year-olds to call themselves out.”
Belzer detailed how the administration had come to the conclusion at the beginning of the year to ban 18-year-olds from calling themselves out. He explained that administrative regulations depend on how the board policy is interpreted, which can often be stricter than the overarching education codes.
“When we were discussing this in the summertime, we decided to stick to the board policy because we felt we were out of compliance with it,” Belzer said. “But the administrative regulations actually allow us to continue the policy, so we decided to bring it back,”
The returned policy stipulates that students must receive signed permission from their parents in order to use the privilege.
“We value attendance,” Belzer said. “We want to see our students be responsible for themselves, but we also want to honor the communication between parents and students.”
Despite the discrepancy between school policy and the education code, Giammona understands the rationale behind the administration’s decision to bar the “18-year-old privilege.”
“I can totally see how students might abuse this power,” Giammona said. “In my opinion, there should be a set list or restriction that if a student is showing a trend of being absent all the time and a trend in their grades, they can have their privilege revoked.”
Since the rule had been suspended in the beginning of this school year, the attendance office has seen a positive change in the students’ attendance.
“The main reason why we don’t like the rule that allows 18-year-olds to call themselves out is because a lot of students were taking advantage of it,” campus security Randy Williams said. “They weren’t really sick or had doctor’s appointments. The number of students that were leaving was just too high. Now that the rule has been taken out, the number has definitely dropped. Students are still leaving, but it’s with their parents permission, so there isn’t a dramatic number.”
Now that the privilege is back, the attendance office predicts that the trend of absences within second semester seniors will return.