Okay, I need to post another response. Why is everyone getting so hostile to teachers? Where in the form letter did it imply that "schools own the children" or "learning can only take place in the classroom?" No teacher I know has ever said that, just the opposite - they are trying to get it through to parents that primary responsibility belongs to the parents and the teachers can't fix problems that parents won't. Teachers also encourage parents to do educational activities with their kids rather than turn on the tube while Mommy talks on the phone and Daddy has a beer. The form letter was required, and attendance can and does affect performance in school. Kids can plummet when they miss school. If you don't think second grade is important, think again. Would you buy a house where the contractors were sloppy with the foundation? Come on, it's not like its the shingles on the roof, for heaven's sake, it's only the foundation! See what I mean?
Surely you don't believe that an education hinges on one week of worksheets in grade 2. If the education system truly believes that "Learning is not only reflected in written work, but primarily takes place during hands-on activities, discussion and interaction between teachers and students" then why question the value of a family vacation when there is so much rich opportunity for discussion and interaction, and hands on experiences.
For many parents, education may be a huge priority but "schooling" may not be. Education is about so much more than what kids get in school and the letter came across as totally sanctimonious in my opinion because it dismissed the educational value of everything except school.
I'm not in the States so I am not clear on the excused/unexcused distinction but this thread has had me thinking about American culture. Dh and I were talking about how ludicrous it is that in a country that defines itself as the land of the free, parents are not permitted to remove their children from school without repercussions. It's especially mind-bogglingly ironic in the case of one of the PPs who wants to be able to spend time as a family before her husband is sent to Iraq.
I personally would send a letter stating that I found the letter and its assumptions to be offensive. If no one speaks up now, what are the chances anything will change. Just because its red tape doesn't mean it isn't ridiculous.