Abington resident and local radio personality Mike Rossi became a social media celebrity this week for a note he wrote criticizing his children’s school for refusing to excuse the children’s extended absence to travel to Boston to see Rossi run the Boston Marathon last weekend.
That note, posted to Rossi’s Facebook page went viral, with many sharing the story and cheering Rossi’s refusal to accept the school’s policy, which does not excuse absences for family vacations.
“I can promise you they learned as much in the five days we were in Boston as they would in an entire year of school,” Rossi wrote to the principal of Rydal Elementary, where his children attend. He had written to inform the school he was taking them out of class for the trip and was not happy when he received a letter informing him the absences were not excused.
Public schools are a pretty easy target. They tend to be bound by strict policies that are tough for most to understand. And they consistently do unpopular things — collect property taxes and make our kids take standardized tests. Many comments I’ve read over the last 24 hours or so the story went viral are not kind to schools in general.
The story has gotten so large that it prompted a response from Abington School Board president Raymond McGarry, Esquire, in which he endorses the district’s policy to not excuse absences for family vacations and that it is up to parents to know the policy and accept the consequences.
“School districts cannot and should not, in my opinion, be arbiters of what vacations are worthy of pulling your children out of school for and which ones aren’t,” he wrote.
I understand public school districts craft laws to provide rights for children who sometimes have parents who don’t act in the best interests of those children. But should a school district really make it essentially unlawful for a parent to keep a child out of school for an extended period of time? As stated in the Abington school’s handbook, a warning will be sent home and if a student misses one more day without excuse, the district will file a criminal complaint against the child’s guardians.
Philadelphia’s absence policy appears to allow for family vacations and requires only that written permission/notice be received before the trip. In this case, the city’s schools appear to have a more sensible policy. If you can’t take your child on a vacation during school for no more than a week without breaking the law, there’s something wrong with the law.