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Ask SUSD to Stop Labeling our Children as TRUANT !

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Dear Saratoga Community,

I am a parent of two small daughters in elementary school who was shocked when receiving truancy letters because of three absent days of school. I did notify the school in a timely fashion, as I had always done in the past, of the girls’ absences due to an important family event that required travel abroad. Up until last year notifying the school was enough and did not trigger truancy. The truancy letter I received suggests in a very condescending tone that my girls are destined for failure and treats me as a negligent parent which makes no sense. We moved to this community because of the high academic standards of its schools and my daughters have always met or exceeded them. I am heavily involved in the well being of my daughters. Basically, your typical Saratoga family who highly values family and education.

As a means of example some quotes from the truancy letter:

"We believe that student attendance and student achievement are closely intertwined"

"Our goal is to educate your child. Thank you for sending your child to school when possible"

If the purpose of the letter is to inform me that the girls were absent then it was a waste of resources because I notified the school of the absence ahead of time.

I understand that the truancy law is an important tool to address absences in communities where truancy is an issue as it may contribute to low achievement. Our community is neither low achieving nor has a truancy problem but nonetheless the district seems to have mandated the schools to not use discretion and not give a way for parents to make up for lost school days. The law clearly provides administrators to use discretion over what constitutes an excused absence and grants parents the option to request make up schoolwork to excuse prolonged absences.

Now, as a parent of this high achieving community I can confirm that not using discretion in the enforcement of the law does not serve our community well. In fact, parents here value education and never take absences lightly. Our schools do not suffer from a problem of truancy and the kids in our school perform to a high academic standard. I do not believe it makes any sense that the district pursue this policy without consideration of particular family circumstances. Our community benefits from a rich ethnic mix and logically keeping ties with their families abroad have a positive impact on children's lives and consequently our community.

My family was not alone in receiving these letters and as we draw close to the holiday season there will be more sent. This petition was written to bring to your attention the capricious way our school district has decided to enforce the truancy law and falsely label outstanding families in our community as truant. These families, like my family, started the school year unaware of the decision the district took this year to enforce the law without discretion. In the name of these and future families who will need to make use of prolonged absences we hope to gather your support to remind the district that they should be serving our community well and send the message that they should be using discretion when using the truancy law.

The reasons why discretion should be used are:

  1. Saratoga is a high achieving community 
  2. Parents in times of prolonged absences were able to request homework packets for independent studies from their teachers ensuring children do not fall behind. This should be considered as excused absences and not trigger truancy.
  3. It should be considered unethical for a place of instruction not to issue homework packets for students.
  4. Most teachers could not morally or ethically not offer support and would still issue homework packets for their students during their absences
  5. The children in our district perform well academically as test results indicate
  6. Discretion should also be used to consider the actual travel time required by those families who must attend religious ceremonies abroad
  7. Without the use of discretion allowed by the law there will be an automatic rise in our district of truancy records which is so uncharacteristic and misrepresents our community

The district must swiftly rectify how they enforce this law returning to the use of discretion as it was in the past, where all ethnicities, religious traditions and family values are embraced. We need the children to continue this school year with the same enthusiasm and eagerness to learn as they do every year without being falsely labeled as truant and not have parents considered negligent which is offensive and false.

The California department of education clearly allows administrators to use discretion; quoting from their website: "Effective January 1, 2013, the law was amended to authorize school administrators to excuse school absences due to the pupil’s circumstances, even if the excuse is not one of the valid excuses listed in the California Education Code (EC) or the uniform standards established by the governing board of the district."

I was able to clear my daughters’ files from being labeled as truant once it was brought to the district’s attention that my daughters attended a religious ceremony abroad. The days the ceremony took place where excused, however, the travel time required to attend the ceremonies was not excused and clearly discretion for travel time should be used here too.

Through this petition we ask that the district return to use discretion as before and begin to serve the community accordingly and not hold the parent community hostage due to an illogical stance that does not reflect the identity of Saratoga. We ask that when parents attend family events abroad that require a few days of absences, they should be allowed to request make up schoolwork to be done while abroad and such absences be considered as excused upon the return of the completed schoolwork. We ask that all students labeled as truant to this date, because of the capricious change of policy, be cleared. We ask that administrators work for and not against the community, not interfere with how teachers go about teaching and not interfere with how parents go about parenting.


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