After Katrina, their mother’s job relocated her to Monroe, but the older brother’s job is in New Orleans and the younger brother is in school in New Orleans. The brothers are constantly traveling back and forth from Monroe to New Orleans, and they don’t always have reliable transportation to make this trip.
The older brother says the whole family has taken responsibility for the little one’s education: brothers and cousins and aunties all go to parents’ meetings, sign off on homework, go over spelling words before dinner. He’s doing very well in school. But a few days ago the family got a letter from the school saying he’d missed over 15 days of school in the academic year (he missed maybe 18 days), and therefore he would not be allowed to move up to the sixth grade unless they could get a doctors’ note for every one of those days, because it would be breaking state law.
Are they kidding? Providing woefully substandard education to our children is completely legal, but if an 11-year-old child misses 18 days, to go see his mother of all things, even if he still gets incredible grades, he's breaking the law?
How on earth is it helping anybody to punish this child for missing school when the whole family is working day and night to support his education, and make sure they all stay connected with each other when they’re so scattered? Any why is medical illness the only valid excuse for missing school? I know so many privileged kids whose families ”take them out of school” for a few days or even a week, so the family can go to Florida or Jazzfest, for example.
And as a healthcare provider it’s hard to be in the middle of this crazy situation, because you can’t be dishonest, of course, and at the same time I totally wanted to advocate for this child. I feel like it’s my job. I feel very strongly that there is no necessity, and no benefit, in this kid repeating a year of school, and that in many ways--healthwise and otherwise--it has the capacity to make things worse for him and his family.
So this is what I wrote: “This child was seen at our clinic today. He is currently a patient under our care. We are aware that he’s had multiple absences from school, and we are excusing him from all of these. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.”
I hope it works.