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Decision No. 13,292

Appeal of ELIZABETH HANSEN, on behalf of her daughter, CATHERINE, from action of the Board of Education of the Cairo-Durham Central School District regarding denial of course credit.

Decision No. 13,292

(November 28, 1994)

Ruberti, Girvin & Ferlazza, P.C., attorneys for respondent, James A.P. McCarthy, Esq., of counsel

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals respondent's denial of course credit to her daughter, Catherine, due to excessive absences. The appeal must be dismissed.

Respondent Board of Education of the Cairo-Durham Central School District has a minimum attendance policy. To receive course credit under the policy, a student may not be absent from a class for 30 periods for a full-year course or 15 periods for a half-year course.

During the course of the second semester of the 1993-94 school year, respondent sent petitioner four warnings that Catherine was in danger of being denied course credit in her half-year Government course. Petitioner did not respond to those warnings. By letter dated June 1, 1994, respondent informed petitioner that because Catherine had accumulated 15 absences in her Government class, she would not receive credit in that course. As provided in respondent's attendance policy, petitioner requested that respondent's attendance committee review the matter. At that review, held on June 16, 1994, petitioner for the first time informed district officials that Catherine had the Epstein-Barr Virus and asserted that her illness in connection with this condition caused the absences in dispute. On June 17, 1994, the attendance committee upheld the determination that Catherine not receive credit in her Government course.

Petitioner contends that Catherine's absences should be excused since they were due to her illness. Respondent denies that contention.

A board of education may adopt a policy requiring a minimum amount of attendance for students to receive academic credit for courses in which they are enrolled (Appeal of Rivers, 27 Ed Dept Rep 73; Appeal of Dickershaid, 26 id. 111; Matter of Laviolette, 24 id. 37). However, such attendance policy may not distinguish between excused and unexcused absences, for purposes of imposing the academic sanction of the denial of course credit. In determining a student's attendance grade, it is irrelevant whether a student's absence on any particular day is excused or not because, in either case, the student has missed the opportunity for classroom participation (Appeal of Shepard, 31 Ed Dept Rep 315; Matter of Dickershaid, supra; Matter of Shamon, 22 id. 428; Matter of Gibbons, 22 id. 134). Accordingly, respondent's decision not to excuse Catherine's absences was proper.

Moreover, respondent maintains that Catherine's absences from the Government class were not due to illness. Catherine's Government class was scheduled in the 6th period of a 9 period day. Attendance records show that Catherine was present in classes both before and after the 6th period on days when she was not present for Government class. In addition, on April 11, 1994, petitioner signed a notarized consent form prior to a class trip to Florida in which she states that Catherine was in good health. Finally, respondent notes that despite repeated warnings that Catherine was in danger of being denied credit, petitioner never advised respondent that Catherine was ill. Based upon this record, I cannot find that Catherine missed classes due to illness.

I have reviewed petitioner's other contentions and find them without merit.