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Decision No. 13,966

Appeal of BARBARA H., on behalf of her son, from action of the Board of Education of the Hauppauge Union Free School District regarding an attendance policy.

Decision No. 13,966

(June 29, 1998)

Cahn, Wishod & Lamb, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Robert H. Cohen, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the denial of course credit to her son due to excessive absences. The appeal must be dismissed.

The Board of Education of the Hauppauge Union Free School District ("respondent") adopted a minimum attendance policy which provides that a student may not miss more than 18 classes in a full year course. If a student is absent from class for more than the allowed number of days, he or she is denied credit for the course. The policy does not distinguish between excused absences, such as those due to illness, and unexcused absences.

Petitioner's son was a student at respondent's high school during the 1996-97 school year. As part of his coursework, petitioner's son was enrolled in English 10 and Spanish, both full year courses.

During the period between December 5, 1996 and March 21, 1997, respondent sent several notices to petitioner informing her of her son's absences in several classes, including English 10 and Spanish. According to respondent's attendance records, petitioner's son exceeded eighteen absences in English 10 and Spanish, and petitioner was so notified by letter dated March 21, 1997. As a result, petitioner's son was denied credit for those courses. This appeal ensued.

Petitioner challenges respondent's attendance policy, alleging that it is illegal and irrational because it does not exclude from the maximum number of permissible absences those absences that are due to illness. Petitioner claims that, because several of her son's absences from English 10 and Spanish were due to illness, he was improperly denied credit in those courses. Respondent contends that its attendance policy complies with applicable law and is in all respects proper.

The gravamen of petitioner's claim is that respondent's attendance policy is improper because, in determining whether a student has exceeded the maximum number of absences permitted for a class, it does not distinguish between excused and unexcused absences.

A board of education may adopt a policy requiring a minimum amount of attendance for students to receive academic credit (Appeal of Hansen, 34 Ed Dept Rep 235; Appeal of Ackert, 30 id. 31; Appeal of Dickershaid, 26 id. 111). 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 (Appeal of Hansen, supra). 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; Appeal of Dickershaid, supra; Matter of Shamon, 22 id. 428). Consequently, because respondent's attendance policy does not distinguish between excused and unexcused absences, it complies with applicable law, and the appeal must be dismissed.