Florida district requiring specifics to back up student absences: 'It’s very invasive'

Parents are used to sending their kids to school with a note to excuse an absence. 

However, in Marion County, parents will now have to provide more information when their child is absent. It’s a change that has left many parents unhappy. 

FOX 35 heard a few different complaints about the Marion County School District’s new excused absence policy. Here was the main one, put succinctly by Desirae Augustyn, who has two children in Marion County elementary schools: "I just feel it’s very invasive."

An elementary school teacher in the Marion County School District who asked not to be identified told FOX 35 News the changes are necessary.

"The students who are out for 10 or 20 days, we get it, there are emergencies, there are things that come up," the teacher said. "But we have kids that are missing 80, 90, 100 days of school. There’s not that many emergencies."

The Marion County School District’s new policy states, "Not all absences are excused. Merely providing a note is not enough."

It states you need to provide the specific reason for the absence, and if the student is gone because of a death in the immediate family, "A copy of the obituary or prayer card is also requested."

"It cuts into the private lives of when there’s a death in the family," said Augustyn. "I don’t think it’s right to need an obituary or prayer card. That’s just kind of stepping over the lines a lot, I believe."

Students who are out sick for more than five days in a row need a doctor’s note. The policy also states, "A student may be referred to School Social Work Services for intervention after they’ve had five absences, either excused or unexcused." 

"I should be able to say, ‘Hey, my kid was absent for not feeling good or for a slight fever.’ I shouldn’t feel the need to have to go to a doctor and pay money for something that they’re not going to do anything for because a virus can’t be treated anyway," said Augustyn.

Florida law states that each individual school board has to establish its own attendance policy. Other districts aren’t quite as strict.

In Orange County, parents can check a box for the category of absence and call it a day, or attach supporting documents.

Each policy is an effort to avoid truancy. There are laws about that in Florida too. Kids between the ages of 6 and 16 legally have to attend school.

Here’s what the teacher FOX 35 spoke with says it comes down to:"When students are missing an excessive amount of school, they’re missing out on the instruction in the classroom."