Causes of absenteeism
Although patterns of chronic absenteeism vary, the most common pattern is for a student to miss a few days of school each week. The student's excuses may or may not have to do with an illness. An absentee problem should be considered chronic when it is not always related to a specific illness and involves an average of two days or more per month. Once cause of chronic absenteeism is a lack of initiative on the part of the parents. It's not uncommon to find children absent from school because their parents did not get them up and out the door. In some cases, children may be kept home to take care of a parent or sibling who is not feeling well. Chronic absenteeism is often a family problem. When one child is absent, so are his or her brothers and sisters. Chronic absenteeism can also occur if parents are easily fooled into thinking the student is sick. Some parents are unable to determine whether their child is sick or not and, therefore, let the child stay home at the slightest complaint. Staying home and watching TV can be very reinforcing to some students. Chronic absenteeism may also occur if the classroom atmosphere is not reinforcing or is threatening to the child. If the student is nervous or anxious about the classroom, he or she may try to avoid coming to school. This factor is usually combined with one of the other causes discussed above. Sometimes, the very young child will use illness as a means of avoiding what he or she thinks may be a new and frightening experience. The Plan:
Follow all of the procedures for handling absenteeism that are outlined by your district. All of the procedures discussed in this solution section should be implemented in addition to, rather than in place of, the procedures specified by your school's administration. Step 2:
Discuss the problem with the school or district nurse. If you are uncertain whether the student actually has health problems, arrange for a physical. (Make sure that you follow distinct guidelines in making arrangements for a physical examination.) Request the school nurse or physician to give the parents some guidelines for evaluating whether the student has an illness that justifies being absent from school as often as has been the case. Step 3:
Discuss the problem with the student's parents. Be sure to provide them with a record of their child's absences. Parents often have no idea how frequently their child has missed school. Let them know that you only wish to help and that you share their concern for their child's welfare in school. Determine whether the student's problem is the result of the parents not being able to tell whether the child is fooling them. Point out that it's sometimes difficult to tell whether someone is sick fist thing in the morning. If the parents have discussed the problem with a nurse or doctor, suggest that they follow the guidelines that were given to them by the professional. Tell the parents that it's fine to send the child to school when they are unsure about health complaints. Reassure them that you will send the child home if he or she is actually sick. In addition, you can suggest to the parent that if the child is kept at home, he should be kept in bed all day. Reinforce the idea that sick time requires rest time. (Sometimes the child will learn to determine whether he is sick or not with this procedure alone.) Determine whether the student's problem is the result of parents not caring whether the child is in school. If so, be understanding of the parents. They may have had negative experiences in school. Let them know that you are there to help their child learn but that you cannot be effective unless the child is in school. Some parents may assume that the elementary school day is composed mostly of play. Let the parents know that this is not the case and that what the student learns each day and each year in school will help determine his or her future success. Sometimes just knowing you...