Youth group applauds changes to New London attendance policy

New London — A local youth advocacy group says a new attendance policy at New London High School should help decrease the number of high school students losing credits, and sometimes not graduating, because of absences.

The Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to approve revisions to the policy that includes a new, more detailed warning system for students who may be in jeopardy of losing credits and later being barred from graduating, said school board President Margaret Mary “Peg” Curtin.

As part of the new warning system, Curtin said, a student may get a home visit if attempts to reach the family by phone have failed.

The youth-led organization Hearing Youth Voices has spent the last several years advocating for such a change, arguing as part of a "We Want to Graduate Campaign" that absence-based credit loss discourages young people from remaining on track to complete their education.

Following a series of starts and stops by the school board in months past, “the vote was a victory,” said Shineika Fareus, the youth organizer for Hearing Youth Voices and a junior at the Science and Technology Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut.

Fareus said students were dropping out of school because they were in danger of not graduating.

In addition to changes in the attendance policy, the newly revised student handbook contains measures for an appeals process should a student want to challenge the loss of credits, she said.

She said Hearing Youth Voices is now working to ensure the new policies are “not just written, but they’re actually going to make it happen.”

A survey conducted by the group also showed that as many as 42 percent of high school students in the city had lost credit and 67 percent of those students passed a class but did not get credit because of the absences.

On average, the group says white students were more likely to recover lost credits and minorities were less likely to be warned about the impending credit loss.

Curtin said there were cases in which students were warned they might not graduate but the warning had come just weeks before graduation.

The policy, she said, is more in line with what schools in surrounding districts have.

Ultimately, Curtin said, it is not only the responsibility of the school administration or Board of Education to communicate with students but “the responsibility of the students and their families to get to school.”

g.smith@theday.com

Twitter: @SmittyDay

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