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Imperfect Perfection

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

This time of year, an estimated 85% of my Facebook friends have commented on some aspect of the end-of-school activities that are consuming their time. A recent FB status caught my eye.

Plonit bat Plonit is so proud that both her children had perfect attendance this year.

My heart immediately sank. Because if her kids had perfect attendance, it could mean only one thing: they had gone to school on Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur. The holiest day of the year.

By the way, before you go screaming that we shouldn’t be penalized for observing our religion, let’s take a look at the relevant section of the Education Code of the State of California:

(a) Notwithstanding Section 48200 [California’s compulsory education requirement], a pupil shall be excused from school when the absence is:

(1) Due to his or her illness.

(2) Due to quarantine under the direction of a county or city health officer.

(3) For the purpose of having medical, dental, optometrical, or chiropractic services rendered.

(4) For the purpose of attending the funeral services of a member of his or her immediate family, so long as the absence is not more than one day if the service is conducted in California and not more than three days if the service is conducted outside California.

(5) For the purpose of jury duty in the manner provided for by law.

(6) Due to the illness or medical appointment during school hours of a child of whom the pupil is the custodial parent.

(7) For justifiable personal reasons, including, but not limited to, an appearance in court, attendance at a funeral service, observance of a holiday or ceremony of his or her religion, attendance at religious retreats, or attendance at an employment conference, when the pupil’s absence has been requested in writing by the parent or guardian and approved by the principal or a designated representative pursuant to uniform standards established by the governing board.

(8) For the purpose of serving as a member of a precinct board for an election pursuant to Section 12302 of the Elections Code.

(b) A pupil absent from school under this section shall be allowed to complete all assignments and tests missed during the absence that can be reasonably provided and, upon satisfactory completion within a reasonable period of time, shall be given full credit therefor. The teacher of any class from which a pupil is absent shall determine the tests and assignments shall be reasonably equivalent to, but not necessarily identical to, the tests and assignments that the pupil missed during the absence.

(c) For purposes of this section, attendance at religious retreats shall not exceed four hours per semester.

(d) Absences pursuant to this section are deemed to be absences in computing average daily attendance and shall not generate state apportionment payments.

(e) “Immediate family,” as used in this section, has the same meaning as that set forth in Section 45194, except that references therein to “employee” shall be deemed to be references to “pupil.” [Members of the immediate family, as used in this section, means the mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, or a grandchild of the employee or of the spouse of the employee, and the spouse, son, son-in-law, daughter, daughter-in-law, brother, or sister of the employee, or any relative living in the immediate household of the employee.]

(Amended by Stats. 1999, Ch. 312, Sec. 1.)

Absence from school for the purpose of “observance of a holiday or ceremony of his or her religion” is an acceptable reason to miss school. It is, however, still an absence. Just as a child who stays home from school due to illness is still absent. These kids are guaranteed the opportunity to make up any missed work, but as they did in fact miss one or more days of school, are ineligible for a perfect attendance award.

Back to the “perfect attendance family, if recollection serves, these kids were in the congregation for the evening service. So they did, in fact, participate in some aspect of the Holy Day. But Yom Kippur observance ought to be more than putting in some time to fulfill…an attendance requirement. Right?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Tuesday, 22 June 2010 10:14 pm

    I fight this battle all of the time in ATL. Teenagers here get all sorts of perfect attendance rewards (including being exempt from certain finals, parking spaces, etc). Parents tell me they sent their kids to school with 103 degree fevers, so “why would I take them out for some Shabbaton or holiday?!?!” What are we really teaching them? Parents are abdicating to the school district what is best for their child – health-wise, spiritually, emotionally.

    It also appalls me that the school only sees it as acceptable absence for a child to miss one day (ONE!!!) for the death of an immediate family member. How insensitive could you be?

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 22 June 2010 10:20 pm

      Yeah. I’m with you. We are teaching kids to be workaholics who are unable to step back and experience life beyond the classroom.

      As for the death, I know. I was encouraged to read that their definition of immediate family is wider than the Rabbinic definition 🙂

      I can tell you that our school excused the kids when their great-grandmother, z”l, died earlier this year. And they missed more than one day.

      Oy, such a stiff-necked people…

      And what are you doing up so late??? Gei schluffen.

  2. Sarah permalink
    Tuesday, 22 June 2010 10:16 pm

    I never really understood perfect attendance awards, anyway. Realistically, there are times when kids shouldn’t be in school–Yom Kippur, for instance, or when they are sick. Why should the school provide an award for showing up “no matter what”?

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 22 June 2010 10:24 pm

      I am in complete agreement.

      The one and only time I ditched a class was during my senior year in high school. I was really, really tired and knew that going to class would be a mistake. I certainly didn’t want to fall asleep in class. Nor would I be able to concentrate. So I ditched and opted to take a shluff in my car. Having no readmit to get back into class the next day, I was given detention.

      My parents, in their infinite wisdom, questioned not my decision to sleep during that period, but my lack of regard for school policy. A visit to the nurse’s office might have resulted in the same opportunity to catch up on sleep while staying within school rules.

      Sometimes, it is better NOT to be in school.

      Yom Kippur is one of those times.

      Thanks so much for stopping by AND for taking the time to comment!

  3. Wednesday, 23 June 2010 9:45 am

    When we moved here from Israel 7 years ago, my two younger kid still school age. We were literally shocked at our new friends sending their children to school on Jewish holidays. At our first Pesach seder at our home in America, a mother said this is lovely but sorry guys you’ve got school tomorrow and it is getting late. She explained that in her family school attendance is part of good study habits. Well needless to say we thought that our kids will be fine academically and that we are Jews if in America or anywhere else in the world.
    After that we saw many a holiday where children were absent from synagogue and attending their school. I even taught once at Sunday where the pupils explained that they planned on fasting at school. What could be a dangerous thing to do in my opinion. An attendance award doesn’t even compare to a Jewish family life rich with warmth, meaning and so much more.

  4. Wednesday, 23 June 2010 9:00 pm

    We are lucky that the schools are closed here on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur (or whichever one falls on a weekday, obviously they’re closed on Shabbat!) so that’s not a problem. This year I pulled my kids for Shavuot, as we talked about, and I think that was a great decision. I’ve decided that perfect attendance is overrated and if I can, I’m going to pull my kids for silly, fun, memorable reasons (not too many, obviously) in addition to the holidays. I think the schools care too much about the little details (attendance) and not enough about the big details (creating mensches who will work to make the world better) and so I’m going to work on that one on my own. Luckily, our school doesn’t give attendance awards but I’d value far more a report card that tells me that my son is interacting nicely with his peers.

  5. Friday, 25 June 2010 8:43 am

    Before you jump to conclusions–the particular school district might have different rules. For example, in my Boston ‘burb, the schools do not close for the High Holidays. However, absence for the High Holidays (any religious observance) DOES NOT COUNT as an absence. So in theory, my son could have had a perfect attendance record for the year, even though he was not in school for Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur (he did have some sick days so he didn’t have perfect attendance). So, maybe….?

    • Friday, 25 June 2010 12:18 pm

      Not having it count as absences is so fair! That is the way it should be

      • Frume Sarah permalink*
        Tuesday, 29 June 2010 11:01 pm

        Nope. If you are not in class, the district doesn’t receive money. So absent is absent. What distinguishes the absence is whether it is excused or unexcused.

        If my kid is not in class, whatever the reason, the district does not receive money. I get it. And I’m OK with that.

        Being Jewish here means making tough choices.

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