Letter from school....how to respond??? - Mothering Forums

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Old 10-01-2007, 12:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I took my daughter out of school for a week to go on a family vacation in Florida (DH's parents, brother and fiance, my children and stepchildren all went). We went to Disney and had a great time. I felt that a week out of second grade is not a big deal, we do alot of learning at home, and am seriously considering homeschool next year.

Well, the school didn't have time to pull a packet of work together for DD, but we did jounal entries over the week, brought a spelling workbook and a math workbook that we use at home. There is actually a lot of learning activities at the park too, especially in Animal Kingdom and Epcot (countries, cultures, food, how thrill rides work, there is an aquarium etc)

Well, the school sent me a "bad mommy" letter and I'm just itching to respond, but want to do it in a manner that is professional and well spoken.

Here is the letter, and it really creeps me out!

Quote:
Dear Sarah S

It has come to our attention that your child, Jacqueline will be on vacation from 9/24-9/28 2007. While we realize that family vacation and trips can be valuable learning experiences, we recomment that families do not schedule such trips while school is in session. According to your District Attendance Plan, these vacations and trips are not recognized as excused absences.

A great deal of learning takes place during the school day. Learning is not only reflected in written work, but primarily takes place during hands-on activities, discussion and interaction between teachers and students in the classroom.

Teachers are not expected to provide work to be completed over a vacation. However, copies of materials distributed to students during the period of absence will be set aside and saves. Families should consider reading, keeping a journal or creating a photo journal while on their trip.

Please make every effort to have your child attend school on each scheduled day. Please do not hesitate to call me if you have any questions.

Thank you for your cooperation

Signed the principal.
It's just condeceding, you know and completely devalues the work we do as parents, and it sounds like the only real learning is at school, which is so not the case. The "thank you for your cooperation" just completely rubs me the wrong way as well.

Thanks all for letting me vent a little, and any help with wording my response is completely appreciated!

S
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Old 10-01-2007, 12:40 PM
 
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I probably wouldn't respond. I'm sure it's just a form letter they send to every parent who pulls kids out for vacation, and because their state and federal funding is related to the number of students in attendence each day, they need to make sure parents don't pull their kids out frequently.

If I did respond, however, I'd briefly state that you do not plan on yanking her out of school for vacations on a regular bases (appease them). Then, detail some of the learning experiences she encountered on the trip.
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Old 10-01-2007, 01:38 PM
 
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It's a form letter and a district requirement that it is sent out for any vacation/unexcused absence. We went on vacation last year and the girls missed 3 days of school we got the same letter from both principals.
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Old 10-01-2007, 02:08 PM
 
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WOW!!! I didn't know these letters existed! (DS is not quite 2, and DD is 2 weeks)

Being the type of person I am, I'd have to respond...

Dear Principal

I am pleased to see that you monitor attendance so well at your school. I understand that according to the District Attendance Plan, family vacations planned during the school year are not recognized as excused absences.

I must point out that a great deal of learning, in fact, the majority of learning, takes place

outside the school day. By your own admission, "Learning is not only reflected in written work, but primarily takes place during hands-on activities, discussion and interaction..." During our vacation we used spelling and math work books, and had many opportunities for hand's on activities << insert examples here>> - most/none of which are opportunities that could have been provided to Jacqueline during your school day. And while I appreciate that "discussion and interaction between teachers and students in the classroom" is important, it pales in comparison to discussion and interation between family members... But then again... my mother always told me I was a bit of a smarty-pants...

Daughter of the King, wife to a loving husband, mommy to DS 10/26/05, DD 9/16/07, and my precious gone to be with Jesus 12/09.
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Old 10-01-2007, 02:11 PM
 
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I agree with the pps. It's a form letter that they send to everyone. They aren't threatening you with anything, and they aren't going to be able to count this as an excused absense, no matter what.

In my district (also upstate NY), they deliberately will not put any material together for you ahead of time.

I would let it roll off my back. The day they started spending contact time to make the kids attend a pep rally to hype them up for selling Sally Foster was the last day I worried about them missing school for what I consider legitimate reasons. OTOH, I really think trying to sell Disney as an educational experience is pushing it, much as I love Disney. The school isn't going to believe it for a minute. (Really, I'm just jealous. DH teaches school, so we are restricted to travel during the overcrowded, hyperexpensive school vacations!)
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Old 10-01-2007, 03:16 PM
 
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I would roll my eyes, complain about it to my friends and family, and say, "Screw 'em." I probably wouldn't respond, only because if it's a form letter, they're not really looking for a response.

Mom to dd (8), ds (6), and dd (1)

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Old 10-01-2007, 03:31 PM
 
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I'm sure it's just a form letter like most other posters said, but just to be bitchy (cuz I'm that way), I'd compose a similar letter to send to the prinicipal for when your child's teacher misses work for illness or teacher institute day

"It is very important the Dear Child's teacher be present and accounted for each and every school day. We as parents realize that people get sick, but we feel that the time for teachers to be sick is the three months of vacation they have during the summer. We also feel that schools have plenty of time to schedule teacher institute days during the summer vacation months as well. Studies have shown that children do not benefit from such interuptions in routine."

I know it's really snarky, but I really hate school administrator BS.:
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Old 10-01-2007, 03:37 PM
 
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As the others have said, it's a standard letter and there's no need to respond. Your kids gets X number of unexcused absences, and a trip to Disney isn't going to cut it regardless. It's unexcused, period. As any vacation be should be.
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Old 10-01-2007, 05:12 PM
 
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I'd be tempted to send a "it's Grade 2, get over it" letter back.lol

Quote:
"It is very important the Dear Child's teacher be present and accounted for each and every school day. We as parents realize that people get sick, but we feel that the time for teachers to be sick is the three months of vacation they have during the summer. We also feel that schools have plenty of time to schedule teacher institute days during the summer vacation months as well. Studies have shown that children do not benefit from such interuptions in routine."
I like this, but I'd add/change it to include Teacher Labour Disputes/Strikes that happen during the school year. though our kids have never been affected by one they piss me off. One district close to here had no school for a few weeks & then brought in temps for 2 months until they came to an agreement.

I pulled 2 of my kids for a week last year. One was in Grade 3, the other in K(so she only missed 3 days). I asked the Grade 3 teacher if there was any work planned ahead that they could give it or we'd get it after. She got 1 sheet from 1 class before we went. The rest we got the day she got back(which was actually a day early because we came back early). In total she had about 8 or 9 sheets of work to do, THEN she got an AWARD for getting it all done the day she got back.lol oh, an no form letter was sent home, though the school did need to know why becuase the board was now requesting that the teachers find out why kids are missing.lol
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Old 10-01-2007, 07:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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As the others have said, it's a standard letter and there's no need to respond. Your kids gets X number of unexcused absences, and a trip to Disney isn't going to cut it regardless. It's unexcused, period. As any vacation be should be.
I don't care if it's an excused/unexcused abscence at all. I guess the core of my issue is that ultimately, I'm the parent and responsible for my child's education. The letter, form or not, carries the tone that the only real learning is at school. The letter was unnecessary. What do they expect from me now - an apology and an admittance that I'm a subpar parent?

As for Disney being educational, the Magic kindom isn't, but I was pleasantly surprised by Animal Kingdom and Epcot. There is a small aquarium at Epcot now, with a great interactive learning piece on sea turtles. Jacqueline also got to go snorkeling and see tropical fish and sharks. Also, there is the real world expirence that goes along with travel: how to get on an airplance, getting thru security, meeting needs for food/drink/rest while traveling, travel safety, etc.

I'm a firm beleiver that life is a learning expirence, and that one doens't need to be in a classroom to learn. *shrug* and it would be nice to see that awknowldged, without a form letter from the school reminding me that attendance is expected.
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Old 10-01-2007, 08:11 PM
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The school administrator doesn't know you. She/he doesn't know your family. She/he has no earthly clue what you consider educational or what your expectations for your child's education are.

There genuinely are parents in the world who *don't* know that regular school attendance is expected, who have no intention of providing their child with an educational experience outside of school, and who really believe that the teacher should be at the ready with a packet containing all of the next month's worksheets at a moment's notice if junior is going on vacation.

The school administrator doesn't expect anything from you. They just want a note in the file saying the letter was sent in case you complain that the teacher didn't do enough to help your child make up the missing time or that you didn't know that your child would be missing valuable educational experiences in the classroom. Or if your child misses 15 or 20 more days and the school wants to make sure they'd told you that, in their books, absences are a bad thing.

If you must write a letter of complaint, leave the teacher and the teacher institute days (and yes, also the teacher labor dispute) out of it. The teacher hasn't done anything in this situation, and doesn't deserve to be complained about because the administrator sent a form letter that ticked you off.
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Old 10-01-2007, 10:05 PM
 
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I think I'd write a response saying that while you realize that what you received was a form letter, you don't feel good about it, and then exactly what you've already said, although perhaps in different words:

Quote:
It's just condeceding, you know and completely devalues the work we do as parents, and it sounds like the only real learning is at school, which is so not the case. The "thank you for your cooperation" just completely rubs me the wrong way as well.
You might also want to focus on the fact that this is no way to win friends and influence people, or to build cooperation between parents and the school. It may very well be that they don't realize that their form letters make them sound like such jerks.

Spending all of my money and time on this wild, wild life.
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Old 10-01-2007, 10:24 PM
 
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Originally Posted by sdm1024 View Post
I took my daughter out of school for a week to go on a family vacation in Florida (DH's parents, brother and fiance, my children and stepchildren all went). We went to Disney and had a great time. I felt that a week out of second grade is not a big deal, we do alot of learning at home, and am seriously considering homeschool next year.

Well, the school didn't have time to pull a packet of work together for DD, but we did jounal entries over the week, brought a spelling workbook and a math workbook that we use at home. There is actually a lot of learning activities at the park too, especially in Animal Kingdom and Epcot (countries, cultures, food, how thrill rides work, there is an aquarium etc)

Well, the school sent me a "bad mommy" letter and I'm just itching to respond, but want to do it in a manner that is professional and well spoken.

Here is the letter, and it really creeps me out!



It's just condeceding, you know and completely devalues the work we do as parents, and it sounds like the only real learning is at school, which is so not the case. The "thank you for your cooperation" just completely rubs me the wrong way as well.

Thanks all for letting me vent a little, and any help with wording my response is completely appreciated!

S
It sounds like the school thinks that they own your child and can discipline you in the process. The whole "non-excused" thing really irks me. If you parent knows you are not going to attend and makes the school aware, that's an excused absence in my book.
Too bad the school system hasn't read my book.LOL

I guess that's why I homeschool.
Lisa

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Old 10-02-2007, 12:30 AM
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DH says, next time send the school/ principal a postcard from Disney World saying: "Wish you were here!"
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Old 10-02-2007, 12:56 AM
 
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I don't understand what is the difference between an "excused" and "un-excused" absence?

Not that I care what they mean by it, I'm just vaguely curious.

If my dd's previous school had had ONE single word to say to me about a family vacation, after putting dd and her classmates through 3 to 4 different teachers each grade, due to teachers' constant sick leaves, not to mention a 2-week *illegal* strike..WOW would they have gotten an earful!!.

ITA that travelling is a learning experience in itself, children can do worksheets any time!! If your family has the time and resources to take a trip, DO IT!!
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Old 10-02-2007, 01:06 AM
 
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My friend got a ton of grief over taking her daughter out of kindergarten for a once in a lifetime trip to Europe. Her daughter was well ahead of the kindergarten academic goals for the year anyway, but the principal argued she would lose too many educational opportunities by missing a couple weeks of school and refused to allow it. Of course, my friend knew enough not to pay much attention to that, and off they all went to Europe. She has paid the consequences of being labeled a 'troublesome' parent though. She finally moved her daughter to private school after years of frustration with our public school.
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Old 10-02-2007, 02:27 AM
 
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As an elementary school teacher, I have to respond to the "it's just second grade" part. I have found that what kids learn in early elementary can be the foundation of their learning to come. The content of those early grades (reading, writing, basic math) we use as adults daily. I teach Kindergarten and First grade and it is pretty amazing what we get through in one day. If their teacher is a good one, kids do miss alot when they are not there, learning experiences that cannot be easily replicated. Now, you say that you do a lot of work with your child at home, and that is excellent. I wish I had more parents like you. But please see it from the school's point of view -- I can tell you from my experience that many other parents who pull their kids out are not working with them outside of school. And when their children are low performing due to attendance issues, it is frequently the teacher who is blamed.

Also, parents have to realize that many learning experiences cannot be replicated through a packet of worksheets or take home work. Some learning experiences come from the group, through class discussion, or from hands on learning, or from using special manipulative tools that are not readily available. The "worksheet" usually follows teacher modeling, group work, etc.
A worksheet doesn't teach, it just is one way of showing what the child already knows.

If your family vacation is very important to you and you make a concerted effort to include educational and broadening experiences, go for it. You are the parent, make the decision that you think is the right one. You know what is best for the child. But I don't think you can fault the school for having concerns about attendance -- too many parents are careless in this regard. Your attitude about school will affect your child's. And if you have concerns that this school does not share your values, perhaps you should homeschool.

Best wishes to you.
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Old 10-02-2007, 03:29 AM
 
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I would not respond.

When I was a teacher (of preK, KG, and 1st) parents would pull out their children for trips to Mexico. (99%-100% of my students were Mexican.) I thought it was fabulous, personally. There is much to be learned outside of the classroom, and oftentimes these trips had to be scheduled around a parent's work schedule.

Then again, I don't like a lot of what goes on schools anyway, so maybe I'm just the wrong person to ask. To me, school should comprise of one SMALL part of life.

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Old 10-02-2007, 04:14 AM
 
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I wouldn't respond.

BTW, my grandparents lived in Anaheim, and my parents pulled me out of school every year for a week to go to Disneyland (they hated crowds). It never affected my education one bit, and I graduated with honors from one of the top Universities in the country.

I know that a lot of teachers/school adminstrators can't imagine how a child could possibly learn anything of value outside of a classroom, but remember that a lot of doctors think you need to CIO to teach a baby how to sleep. You know what's best for your child and your family - continue to do it and only deal with beaurocracy when you have to.
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Old 10-02-2007, 04:52 AM
 
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I'll be the odd person out here, though please understand I do respect why you took her on vacation.

When I put my child in school, I understand she is to be there barring illness or dr. appt. I'm certain schools see family trips during school times as a slap in the face to what they are trying to accomplish. Just my 2c and like I said, I do understand why you did the trip when you did.

That being said, I do plan to take my daughter out of preschool (she'll miss 3 days, maybe only 1 if we do it over a weekend and the flights work) next October to take her to a pumpkin patch with her grandparents and aunts. After next year, though, all vacations will be done around the school year (barring an emergency with family). Esp. since I'll be paying for private school, hell had better freeze over before she misses a day due to anything other than illness!

Jenn
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Old 10-02-2007, 09:19 AM
 
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It's a form letter. I wouldn't let it bother you. My parents always pulled my sister and I out of school early for vacations and if the opportunity arises I will be doing the same. You know your children best.

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Old 10-02-2007, 01:30 PM
 
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I wouldn't respond, but that is partially because I wouldn't be able to filter the "bite me" subtext out of anything I wrote.

Mostly sane mother to twins.
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Old 10-02-2007, 01:36 PM
 
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This really ticks me off. They could easily get around the missed days if they wanted. You notified them in advance. All they had to do was give you an independant study contract for the time you would be gone, and a packet of work. Then they'd be able to count your child as in attendance during that time.

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Old 10-02-2007, 02:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sdm1024 View Post
I took my daughter out of school for a week to go on a family vacation in Florida (DH's parents, brother and fiance, my children and stepchildren all went). We went to Disney and had a great time. I felt that a week out of second grade is not a big deal, we do alot of learning at home, and am seriously considering homeschool next year.

Well, the school didn't have time to pull a packet of work together for DD, but we did jounal entries over the week, brought a spelling workbook and a math workbook that we use at home. There is actually a lot of learning activities at the park too, especially in Animal Kingdom and Epcot (countries, cultures, food, how thrill rides work, there is an aquarium etc)

Well, the school sent me a "bad mommy" letter and I'm just itching to respond, but want to do it in a manner that is professional and well spoken.

Here is the letter, and it really creeps me out!



It's just condeceding, you know and completely devalues the work we do as parents, and it sounds like the only real learning is at school, which is so not the case. The "thank you for your cooperation" just completely rubs me the wrong way as well.

Thanks all for letting me vent a little, and any help with wording my response is completely appreciated!

S
First of all, I bet you dollars to doughnuts that this claim that the absences will be unexcused is in violation of your district's policy, and I would say so. Can your daughter lose credit and not be promoted to third grade because of this? If so, I would REALLY check.

Most districts have their policies and regulations online. Go to the district website and search for "absences" or some similar search term. If you want to PM me, I'd be happy to poke around because this letter irritated ME and it's not even my kid.
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Old 10-02-2007, 03:50 PM
 
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As a kid we always went on vacation during the school year. It was really the only affordable time!

Back then though it was a lot of book and paperwork though!

Mom of a 7 yr old, 4 yr old, and 1 yr old. Wow. How did that happen?
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Old 10-02-2007, 04:01 PM
 
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those are the letters our district sends out if notified in advance. if you don't notify them or do notify and don't obey their request/reminder to NOT go on the vacation or leave, they contact the prosecutors office and file educational neglect. Plain and simple.


It's gotten so bad in Indiana, especially in our area, that both girls building principals have told me to 'withdrawl to homeschool' the girls for the one to two weeks we'll be gone surrounding DH's deployment ceremony & leaving for Iraq. They said they fully understand the need to be with DH at a time like this, but the law is the law. If the girls miss more than 7 days in the year, or 5 days in a row without a hospital report, they are required to file educational neglect [b] however, if I sign a form saying I'm withdrawing them in order to homeschool them, and then simply re-enroll them once we get back, there won't be a problem. The paper monkeys at the state level will just look at it as an admission of failure on my part, but not neglect.
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Old 10-02-2007, 04:39 PM
 
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those are the letters our district sends out if notified in advance. if you don't notify them or do notify and don't obey their request/reminder to NOT go on the vacation or leave, they contact the prosecutors office and file educational neglect. Plain and simple.
WOW.

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Old 10-02-2007, 04:54 PM
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those are the letters our district sends out if notified in advance. if you don't notify them or do notify and don't obey their request/reminder to NOT go on the vacation or leave, they contact the prosecutors office and file educational neglect. Plain and simple.


It's gotten so bad in Indiana, especially in our area, that both girls building principals have told me to 'withdrawl to homeschool' the girls for the one to two weeks we'll be gone surrounding DH's deployment ceremony & leaving for Iraq. They said they fully understand the need to be with DH at a time like this, but the law is the law. If the girls miss more than 7 days in the year, or 5 days in a row without a hospital report, they are required to file educational neglect [b] however, if I sign a form saying I'm withdrawing them in order to homeschool them, and then simply re-enroll them once we get back, there won't be a problem. The paper monkeys at the state level will just look at it as an admission of failure on my part, but not neglect.
If they require you to do all that for missing 5 or 7 days of school a year, I'd be careful not to do that too often, otherwise they might be taking your children away from you in a few years. They are filing all this in their neat little folders and are building a case against you as a bad parent who does not know what you are doing and will see you unfit to raise your children!
This might sound harsh, but to make you go through all this for 5 days a year, they are doing it with a reason, I am not saying they for sure will, but it is not a far step from what you have to do now for a few days. Be careful!
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Old 10-03-2007, 02:37 AM
 
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Originally Posted by greeny View Post
I would roll my eyes, complain about it to my friends and family, and say, "Screw 'em." I probably wouldn't respond, only because if it's a form letter, they're not really looking for a response.
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Old 10-03-2007, 02:45 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the responses.

To be honest, at this point my intial reaction to respond would just take too much energy for this busy mamma.

However, the temptation to be snarky is tempting
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