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Ask Judy: How does lateness affect high school admissions?

Dear  Judy -

Recently, my 8th-grade son was scheduled for a dentist appointment first thing in the morning, followed by a medical appointment. He was very late to school  and when  he got there, despite notes  from the doctors he saw, he was marked late. When I asked why, I was told that medical appointments are not excused. He will have to return to the dentist a few times and has medical condition that will require ongoing treatment. How will this affect his applications to high school?  How can I get these latenesses  removed from his record?

Worried Mom

Dear Worried Mom:

Lateness goes along with attendance in evaluating a kid’s commitment to education, and schools are looking for students  (and families) who make school a priority. But  just one non-excused lateness won’t make a difference. When rating kids, schools look down on a pattern of persistent lateness and absence.

While 90% attendance was formerly a promotion and graduation requirement, it no longer is.  Now student must be shown to be making progress toward that goal. But the issue remains important, so it is a good idea to make sure that records are correct for both attendance and lateness.

How to determine if your son’s lateness was unfairly categorized?  Your school should have a stated policy about both absence and lateness. According to Chancellor's Regulation A-210, “Each school is required to submit annually, on or before October 31st, an Attendance Plan that delineates the school’s attendance program as a component of the Office of School and Youth Development’s Consolidated Plan.”  You should ask to see this policy so you know in advance what the rules are.

The regulation also states that, “…If students have been absent from school for reasons other than illness, documentation of the reason for the absence is to be presented to the school (e.g., examination schedule of special examination, court order, etc.). Absence notes submitted by parents are to be maintained for one year after the end of the school year.”  My guess is that lateness is part of this plan, but I have not had confirmation of that.

It is important that the guidance counselor enters the specific codes which explain the reasons for the student's absences; admissions staff will be able to see that information. To be certain that the schools you are applying to get the message, write a letter to accompany the application explaining the reason for his lateness and absences and noting the medical excuses that you submitted. Better yet, ask the guidance counselor to write the letter, and make sure that he or she enters the proper code so that the receiving schools can call up the record and see for themselves.

Another strategy: if your son is applying to a school that requires a personal interview, he can bring up the subject - if he feels comfortable about discussing his medical condition. Schools won't hold it against him if the absences are excused and explained.

Bottom line, if you are still uncomfortable with the way your specific incident was handled, contact the office that is responsible for attendance:

Office of School and Youth Development
Mandated Responsibilities Unit
N.Y.C. Department of Education
52 Chambers Street - Room 218
New York, NY 10007
Telephone: 212-374-6095
Fax: 212-374-5751


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