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Advocates ask for change in ETHS attendance policy

At this academic year’s first Evanston Township High School District 202 school board meeting, community members called on the district to change its attendance policies.

Advocates told board members Monday they feel the current policy is able, arguing that the current policies do not acknowledge the various reasons a student may be tardy and have impacted students’ social-emotional learning.

“Many students on tardy probation currently are disabled, (and) these students are being excluded from school-related activities,” ETHS parent Kristen Scotti said. “Not all disabled students have 504s or (Individualized Education Programs). Evaluation processes are time consuming and costly — folks with privilege have better access.”

504s and IEPs allow for individualized education plans and disability accommodations for students. Some students face financial barriers to access alternative learning plans.

Currently, ETHS only allows students to have six absences. If students are 10 minutes late, it is registered as an absence, or an extreme tardy, instead of a tardy.

Students who receive more than 10 tardies are placed on “detention probation,” meaning they cannot attend school events.

“It does not seem that punitive punishment is a good response to tardies — it seems like it’s a sign to (ask),’What support does the kid need?’” ETHS parent Chris White said. “I don’t know where this policy comes from. It seems very counter to everything else we’ve heard tonight of all the efforts of equity.”

Last year, attendance records meant students were not able to attend social events like Homecoming. The policy also excluded these students from participating in extracurricular clubs, including affinity spaces.

Though parents have raised concerns with ETHS administrators in the past, attempts to change the school’s attendance policy have not been successful.

“When two other parents and I tried to address this issue with a dean, we were told that disabled students do not have any inherent right to attend ETHS events,” Scotti said. “I hope I don’t need to remind anyone here that this view is in opposition to federal law.”

Scotti referenced the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against those with disabilities.

The district also offers perks to students with perfect attendance records. A student speaker at Monday’s meeting said they were not able to participate in a school-sponsored trip to Six Flags because of their attendance record.

Community advocates also argued that the policy is classist. While some students may drive to school, others use public transportation and may live farther away from the school. Parents like Scotti said the policy directly discriminates against lower-income students.

“We have notoriously late buses for students who rely on public transportation to get to school,” Scotti said. “These students are being further marginalized by tardy violations that act to further exclude them from the school environment.”

Student board representatives also addressed the board about a recent ETHS suspension. On Sept. 30, ETHS senior Mayra Bazan Gonzalez brought pepper spray in her bag to the school’s homecoming football game, since she had to walk home that night.

Pepper spray is a banned object at ETHS. As a result, security at the game immediately suspended Bazan Gonzalez and placed her on “expulsion recommended” status.

A petition that calls for an end to her potential ETHS expulsion currently has over 2,600 signatures.

This punishment is extreme, unfair, and ignores the nuance of her situation,” the petition states.

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @nicolejmarkus

E-mail: [email protected]

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