School Attendance Policies That Are Ableist or Classist Hurt Students With Mental Health Issues

And they’re bad for some parents, too.

The Good Men Project
A Parent Is Born
Published in
5 min readMay 17, 2021

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Photo credit: adamova1210 from Pixabay

By Sandy Roffey

My child is a senior in high school. She’s in Advanced Placement classes and works after school, and tries hard at both. But a letter came recently from the head of her “House” (no, not Hufflepuff, they’re split into numbers, One, Two, and Three.) It informed me that my child had been missing from school for four days this semester. These days were marked “Unexcused,” as I didn’t send in a doctor’s note for them, and they could impact her grade, as anything over four absences costs a full credit from her grade in the second semester.

Well, no, I didn’t send in a note.

I didn’t send in a doctor’s note for the day she had a 102 fever and a sore throat, because we’d been to the doctor a few days before, and they told me it was a virus. Since my plan has a very large deductible, I paid $137 for that visit. When the fever flared on Thursday, I didn’t feel the need to bring her back to the doctor for them to say, “Keep giving her Tylenol and fluids.” I also didn’t want to expose everyone in the school to the virus so they’d have to stay home sick, too. I paid the $137, but there are many parents who cannot afford even the $25 co-pay for a sick visit. Requiring a note from a doctor, as opposed to from a parent, takes the decision out of a parent’s hands. It means more parents send sick children to school, or more children have unexcused absences because their parents cannot afford to go to the doctor for every illness.

I also didn’t send in a doctor’s note the day my daughter’s bunny died. I’ve stated before, I suffer from anxiety, depression, and agoraphobia. When the bunny got sicker and sicker, and we’d already taken him to the vet, I knew what was coming, and my anxiety brain went through every scenario that could happen if he died while my daughter was at school. How it would be up to me to tell her. Or she’d be inconsolable to have not been there.

Yeah. My kid needed a mental health day. She wasn’t sick. The thermometer read no fever. But life had kicked her a few times and it was all just sort of crashing in on her.

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The Good Men Project
A Parent Is Born

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