AVS promotes fear not hope

AVS promotes fear not hope

Woodhaven High School’s policymakers do a great job of making simple rules for the students to follow. These rules are usually fair and comparable to other schools. We have our basic fighting, dress code, and cell phone usage policies that rarely face scrutiny. Although most of the rules are straightforward, and I have not personally had an issue with them throughout my high school career, the attendance policy needs reconsideration. The AVS rule improves attendance by ensuring that students are present to learn; however, without clearly defined rules communicated to the students, this system is not beneficial for all.

AVS, which stands for Attendance Violation Status, states that any student who accumulates over 10 absences in any class—excused or unexcused—must pass the course final exam with a minimum of 79% to receive credit for the class. But does that make sense when every student has a different valid reason for missing school? An absence does not count toward the ten days if you have either a doctor, funeral, or court note, but I think there should be other exceptions, as well. For example, my parents are not going to take me to the doctor every time I am sick. Some families can’t afford to seek medical attention because their insurance will not cover it. Parents in struggle can not call off work like others can. It is not uncommon for one of their older children to step in and take care of their younger sibling in their place. After the global pandemic, many students and families were affected both financially and emotionally, causing many hardships that interfered with regular school attendance, and many families are still recovering. These related incidences should not count toward a student’s absence when a parent or guardian communicates with the school promptly.

Mental health care, grieving a loved one, or even going on vacation should not be punished. Yes, a student needs to stay current with classwork and be proactive in these situations by informing staff in advance, but punishment should not be the answer. All of these are examples of unexcused absences, but the reasons for these absences have their importance. The fact that a successful student could have a credit in jeopardy due to the fact her family is going on vacation blows my mind. Depending on the parents’ job they only have selected times throughout the year to travel, and these restricted windows don’t always align with the school calendar. There should be exceptions for some matters instead of having a blanket rule that could cause students to fail.

Not only can the AVS policy set kids up for failure, but it can also cause many students to struggle with anxiety. Teenagers are still learning how to cope with personal conflict as a result of the pandemic, and some are better than others. From personal experience, final exams cause a lot of mental stress and the chance that I might fail the entire class because I get a 75% and not a 79% on the final makes it even worse. Instead of being clear-minded for the test, I now have a fog cloud, which denies me from thinking reasonably.

I do not believe AVS should be abolished, but it should give a sense of hope instead of a sense of failure. When people are constantly falling, they need reassurance, not more stress added. For some students, AVS creates a sense of learned helplessness. Kids see this message, and think there is no way they can swim their way out of the deep end. I feel this attendance intervention should be presented to the student body along with the different avenues to rectify the situation as it is designed. Simply saying too many absences lead to failure does not provide hope; it provokes fear and avoidance.

AVS can be a motivator to get students to come to class and actively participate when used properly and not as a scare tactic. It can either add stress or produce better attendance, along with good behavior, when implemented with grace and tolerance. Communication between the student and the family is the key to making this type of intervention work. The school needs to cultivate an environment where this can happen and people feel safe being honest. The more approachable the administrative body can be, the more factual information they will receive about a student’s truancy. Simply knowing you can regain your credit if all goes wrong, and if your attendance improves can lead to removal from this system and will create peace of mind for students to come back to school. Additionally, knowing the true reasons can lead to another form of support from the school in the way of counseling, social work, or special education services. The ultimate goal is to work with the family and support the child.