Thursday, March 01, 2007

Slipping Through the Cracks

Meet "Kayla." Kayla is from Alabama, and moved to Oakland shortly before school started in late August. There was some problem with her vaccinations - either she didn't get them all in Alabama, or Alabama doesn't require the same tests as California, or the paperwork didn't arrive in time - I don't remember. Regardless of the reason, Kayla was not allowed to start school on the first day of school. Her mother tried to bring her, and she was turned away and not allowed to start for a week. Since then, Kayla has come to school almost every day, missing a few days here and there when she was sick, and currently has 13 absences, all but 5 from illness.

Meet "Jennie." Jennie has 45 absences. Her mother always excuses them, explaining that Jennie has been throwing up or having diarrhea. Jennie's brother has almost as many absences, for the same reason. For a variety of reasons, I suspect Jennie's father of being violent and abusive toward Jennie's mother and perhaps the children. My unprofessional guess would be that the extreme gastrointestinal distress exhibited by Jennie and her brother, as well as their guarded - almost silent - demeanor, might be a direct result of the tension in their home.

Guess which child was brought to the attention of the attendance review board?


If you guessed Jennie - the child who has been absent over a third of the year, who acts like a scared rabbit, and who is probably desperately in need of some intervention - then you are logical, kindhearted..... and haven't been listening to a word I've said.

Kayla's mother (remember, 13 absences, 5 of which were because the district/state wouldn't let her start) received a letter saying that her child was truant, the case was going before the attendance review board, blah blah blah. She was not happy. To quote her, "First they tell me my child can't come to school yet and now they're saying I don't sent my child to school?"

She has a point.

I was supposed to fill out a form detailing how Kayla's "truancy" has affected her behavior and academics, etc. I skipped all the boxes to be filled out and just wrote in big letters something like "Kayla does not have a problem with absences. She was not allowed to come to school for the first week. Since then she has been sick a few times. She is not behind. She should not go before the attendance review board." Then I attached a sticky note saying that I had another student who has missed 45 days of school, and that I've brought this up to Highly Defensive Administrator many many times - can we do something about this one, please?

We'll see.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

You know, the thing that constantly strikes me is the arrogance of management towards line people. It doesn't matter whether it's in the for-profit or non-profit / school milieu, the fact is that the people on the line with the children are the only ones capable of gathering valid "field" data, just like the sales for talking to the customers is the only group able to get that data, or the people making the product are the only ones to be able to tell you what's really going on with the raw materials and the process for making the product.

What is wrong with managers' and administrators' education that this isn't relentlessly reinforced?