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Spotsy wants students in class

Spotsylvania County Public Schools officials say they want to encourage students to attend class rather than punish them for absences.

On Monday, School Board members voted 6–0 to approve revised attendance policies that they say support that goal. School Board member Amanda Blalock was absent but had expressed support for the policy changes at a meeting last month.

Previously, the attendance rules identified specific disciplinary measures—including after-school detention and loss of driving privileges—that students could face for their first six unexcused absences. The new regulations do not include that language.

Instead, the revised guidelines state that principals may consider a variety of consequences for absent students, such as professional counseling, parent conferences, probation, detention, suspension of driving privileges and suspension from extracurricular activities. The school system hopes to place a greater focus on chronic absenteeism, officials say.

The division has also added information on its web site about the negative consequences of absenteeism.

“I’d like to stress that our major concern is to have kids in school so they can learn something,” School Board member Bill Blaine said. “And I think, as I understand our whole policy here, it’s really aiming at that rather than to look for every opportunity to suspend. We’ve tried to go in the other direction, and I think that’s an excellent approach.”

School Board member Baron Braswell called the new policy a “great start.”

“I think we need to continue to encourage—by powering down to principals—the ability to use not only negative but positive reinforcement measures,” he said.

The division will also revise letters sent to parents after students miss 10, 15 and 20 school days.

The new letters ask parents for their support and tell them that “there is a good chance” students won’t graduate if they miss 20 or more school days in an academic year.

So far this calendar year, the division has recorded 4,543 attendance infractions for students who missed an entire school day. That’s actually a 2,085 decrease from the same time period last year.

A committee that includes school counselors, social workers, teachers and administrators recommended the new attendance policies. The group will continue to meet quarterly to review attendance data.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402