Attendance Policy at Berkeley High School

Parent Q&A

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  • I have a 9th grader at Berkeley High.  She is new to Berkeley Unified.  I notice there is an attendance policy at BHS, saying that excused absences only include medical leave, death in the family.  College visits are only for seniors and 2nd semester juniors.  "Family trips are not excused".  My daughter is very busy with outside musical activities.  It's not like she's ditching school doing nothing, but she does have activities that might result in missing some class time here and there, maybe sometimes days at a time.   In fact, she is extremely productive, and it's the daily grind of school that's holding her back, if anything.  Now we have to deal with the BHS attendance policy.  To be honest, I've never read my childrens' schools attendance policy, because she had perfect attendance. One year at our middle school, we went on vacation during school time, told the front office, they said ok, and all was good.  At their elementary school (which was public), kids were always out of school to go to Disneyland or ski.  That doesn't sound very educational to me.

     So - my question is, if the absence is not excused, then what?  Does this prevent her from graduating?  Does this make her an officially "truant" student?  Or, does it just mean that has some unexcused absences for the year, that may result in no prom or homecoming (which she could care less about)?  I would love to hear others' experience at Berkeley High.  Thank you!


    Hi Jenny,

    I've had two kids go through BHS, one an athlete who often misses school to play for her travel team.  Like your daughter, mine is a good student, lets her teachers know when she'll be absent for a sporting event (BHS or otherwise) and makes sure to catch up with whatever material she missed.  Nonetheless, as you've discovered, these absences are not excused when they're not for a BHS team.  My understanding is that your choices are to accept this, with resulting consequences to your child's grades and eligibility for activities, or to lie.  Lying means calling the attendance office and saying your child was sick.  I hate what this teaches our kids.  At least the Berkeley Public Schools Fund now has a way to easily donate the $30/day BUSD loses each time a child is absent.

    BHS has become notorious with its attendance policy. The teacher can reduce the grade depending on the number of absences. My son had an A+ in one of his classes during his senior year, but bec of missing classes, the teacher reduced it to a C-! I went to talk to the teacher and told her it might result in his college rescinding his admission. The teacher could not care less! Told me my son had to learn!! The attendance office and the vice principle had a similar reaction. I was shocked at the level of caring they had for college admission! 

     If I remember correctly, here is what you can do: you can call in the same day or within 3 days and excuse the absence as sick leave. Or if you expect there to be too many absences, then you could enroll your child in independent study which allows her to attend classes as she wishes.

    Hi Jenny, I think you're over-worrying. When your daughter misses class, the unexcused absences are counted up. If she should happen to go over the allowed absence amount, you and she will be called into a group meeting with other i-hate-to-use-the-word-truants (but that's the label the kids are given), the busd or BHS attendance officer, and even a police officer. If that doesn't scare the kids/parents into doing better, an individual counseling session follows. If THAT doesn't do it, then yes, graduation is in jeopardy. As is prom attendance, and possibly other things. So strictly speaking, if your daughter did miss that much school, life could suck. 

    However if her grades are stellar all along, it's super unlikely either the individual teachers or the truancy officer will hold her up as one of the kids they need to spend resources dealing with. They're trying to prevent at-risk kids from not making it, not to prevent a high achiever from reaching her goals (and reflecting well on bhs).  She'll be talking with her teachers (one assumes!) about what she's up to, and no-one will be pushing to see her "punished". 

    Ive said a couple of contradictory things, but in essence, the answer to your question is "it can be worked out". Best of luck. 

    An attendance policy generally means if you have an "unexcused" absence (if the parent does not provide a note or if the note does not state that the student was absent due to illness), teachers are not required to allow the work to be made up. In high school that could have serious grade consequences.

    You should consider Independent Studies at BHS.  A lot of the participants are kids with very active outside interests that interfere with their school schedule.  My son started in IS for different reasons this year and it's bee great.  He loves the teachers and the independence and he still goes up to the high school for two classes a day so he doesn't feel cut off from the larger school community. 

    The Berkeley schools attendance policy is pretty clear,…, and it is the same for all public schools in California. I know several other students who missed a lot of school for sports or work ultimately enrolled in online homeschool or went to private schools where attendance was more flexible. Basically as a public school student attendance is required.

    Hi - these are good questions to raise, but - especially since some parts of the attendance policy are new - why not bring these questions up to your child's academic counselor, the attendance office itself or the VP of your child's Small Learning Community at BHS? I imagine you might get some helpful info in this forum, but it will be anecdotal and dated since, again, the policy is new. I think only BHS can provide the answer.

    I think after a certain number of unexcused absences there are consequences. Unfortunately, your only option is to lie- it's what I do. Say she has a medical appointment or is sick.

    I see that nine parents have already replied, but since their responses are "pending," I have no idea whether my response will be repetitious.  However, I have loads of experience with BHS attendance, which I thought might be helpful to you.

    First of all, it is really too early for you to blithely declare that your 14-year-old daughter "could care less about" an event 3.3 years in her future.  The production values of the Berkeley High prom are extremely high, and it's pretty universally declared to be an "awesome" experience by one and all.  (Kids attend in groups of threes or fours as well as boy-girl pairings.)  Don't knock what you don't know!

    That being said, your daughter will not be denied admittance to the prom if she's not failing any classes and has "made up" any unexcused absences with the Attendance Office.

    How do you do that?  (1) Write to the Attendance Office every time your child is absent.  Among other things, they want to make sure that the students are not ditching school.  If  your child is sick, tell them so.  If your child is sick for three or more days in a row, take her to a doctor and get a retroactive excuse.

    (2) Even if your child is not sick, but is away on a musical adventure, communicate that information to the Attendance Office. The absences will not be excused, but your child can "make them up" at Saturday School.

    What is "Saturday School"?  As it happens, I just found this announcement on the etree:

        The next Saturday School session is this Saturday, November 5. If you have any unverified, or UNV absences, from October that need to be cleared, come to the Attendance Office (room D-134) to sign up before school, during lunch, or after school. Up to 30 students will be accepted for Saturday School on a first come, first serve basis. Saturday School will meet in H207 from 9:00 a.m. until noon, and students can clear up to 6 period absences when they stay the entire time and complete assignments.

    So... the price your daughter may have to pay for extended time away is to spend three hours on a Saturday in H207.  It is not cruel or unusual punishment, and she can get her homework done at the same time.  (Earbuds are allowed, I believe.)  If you play your cards right, she shouldn't have to do it more than twice in a school year.

    Welcome (back) to public school!   When a school is not dependent upon parents to cover their operating expenses, the balance of gravity tips in favor of the administration. For BHS loses federal dollars for every absence -- excused or unexcused -- and so the laissez-faire attitudes of your daughter's former private school won't be found in any public high school (that I know of).

    Just a correction to another post, at least for California schools:  Whether excused or unexcused, the district will not receive funding that day when your child is absent (or, more exactly, it will count as a deficit in the average daily attendance for the district that is used to allocate state funding). So you can make a decision about communicating whether an absence is of the excused or unexcused variety based on criteria other than harming your district's budget; it harms it in either case.  I wonder if other districts besides Berkeley have a way to donate to make up for a child's absence, as one poster noted.

    As a teacher, I'm on the other side of this. For a bright, focused student in 9th or 10th grade, it probably won't have a large effect on their understanding. However, I have had juniors and seniors who were involved with demanding outside activities miss major concepts. They have had quite a bit of trouble catching up with the class. So, my advice is in addition to the logistics of the attendance office, don't enroll your child in honors/AP classes if their attendance is sporadic. I would also encourage you to donate to the development group to cover the missed time as previous posters suggested.