Students Express Attendance Policy Concerns as Pali Adapts to a New School Year

Eleanor Gee and Kylie Lupescu

Implemented at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, Pali’s new attendance policy aims to combat unprecedented levels of absenteeism seen last school year under the continuing COVID-19 attendance policy, but some students remain concerned about the possible consequences.

The new attendance policy resembles the protocols in place before the COVID-19 pandemic. These protocols included the revocation of privileges such as prom or homecoming for students with uncleared absences, as well as the requirement of notes to excuse an absence. The new policy allows parents to excuse a student’s absences through a form on the Pali website, rather than a physical note or an email. Students who are 18 or older may excuse their own absences only after submitting the required paperwork. Additionally, all students must clear their absences within five school days of their return to school in order to avoid truancy. 

The newly instated attendance protocols were put in place to curb Pali’s unparalleled absences seen last year, according to Director of Student Achievement Monica Iannessa. 

“Last year, we actually had a waived attendance policy, so we didn’t really have any structures in place from the attendance policy pre-COVID,” Iannessa said. “There was very little done and very few consequences for students who missed class. As a result, over 25 percent of our seniors had chronic absenteeism.”

With the increased emphasis on limiting truancies, there will be harsher penalties for students labeled as chronically absent compared to last year, when the attendance policy was suspended.

“The reality would be that students will now have documented truancies on their record, which could lead to having to go to Saturday schools,” Iannessa said. “Attending school during Saturdays could lead to parent conferences.”

Chronic absenteeism can also be handled beyond the school if Pali’s measures are deemed insufficient. According to the California Department of Education, if a student is habitually truant, then they may be referred to a School Attendance Review Board if direct intervention by the school is unsuccessful in raising the student’s attendance.

After the new policy was instituted, Associated Student Body (ASB) Leadership held a student concern meeting during lunch on Sept. 1 to discuss the policy, answer questions from students and understand their frustrations.

However, the new attendance policy remains controversial among students. 

“I think overall [the attendance policy] is going to end up being detrimental to students,” sophomore Grace Hardy said. “It’s going to cause students to get in the habit of lying about what they were doing or what happened.”

Despite this, Hardy does view certain parts of the policy to be an improvement. 

“There have been times when I’ve been absent, and the line for the attendance office has been ridiculously long, so I like the idea of the new Google Form they created,” she said.

Sophomore Helena Mack shares Hardy’s views.

“It will most likely force some people to stop skipping school, but it also puts certain people in hard situations because they may need to be absent or physically can’t come to school for whatever reason,” Mack said. “They shouldn’t be punished for that.”

She believes the policy should be improved to change the severity of the consequences students receive for being absent. 

“Not everyone has access to a doctor, and everyone’s situation is different,” Mack said. “People may not have a good relationship with their parents or simply cannot follow that criterion.”

Pali administration anticipated some of the concerns Mack voiced, which is why there are provisions in the policy that address alternative ways to meet requirements for a doctor’s note.

“I think the attendance policy has the right idea, but I think [the administration] is going about it the wrong way,” Mack said.