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School district to revisit new attendance policy

— Schnabl reviewed the entire issue for the board and said one parental concern — that of a student’s right to privacy concerning medical information — is not being violated. He said that under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which protects the privacy of individually identifiable health information, it is acceptable for the district to require a physician’s note as long as the substance of the appointment is not divulged, and as long as it is a “blanket policy” that covers everyone.

Since the amended policy took effect in September, the number of “health lates” at the high school dropped from 831 to 360, including, as a specific example, one student who went from 18 “health lates” to one, “and I don’t see any difference in his health,” Schnabl said.

“That’s 471 less class interruptions,” he said, defending the policy. “That could be 471 hours of instruction we gained by this.”

Schnabl said the current extracurricular policy has been in place “for decades,” and only the requirement of a doctor’s note is new. He also said many other school districts around the state have the same policy. “If we don’t ask for a doctor’s note, we’ll be back to 831 health lates,” he told the board.

Many parents have objected to the policy, stating that it’s too harsh for the simple problem of a student being merely a few minutes late to school in the morning and then, because of that, he or she misses an entire day of a sport or other after-school activity.

Parent Sarah Webster, who spoke during the board’s public comment period, complained that her son was three minutes late to school one day and therefore missed a practice and the high school administration is not offering any leeway or “gray areas” for explanations for tardiness.

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