A group of students stood out by the Veteran’s Memorial parking lot in a circle talking before fourth period on Sept. 20 as the bell rang. The students didn’t budge. They had no intention of going to class. They waited two minutes as they looked around to see if anyone was coming, and got in their cars and drove off, presumably going to an early extended lunch.
According to head counselor Courtenay Tessler, the truancy problem at DHS has been a concern for the administration for years. This year, DHS implemented a much more stringent truancy policy, with the number of truancies for first and second level offenders much smaller than they once were.
The new policy lists three to 10 absences as first level offense, as opposed to the 20 to 30 that were required years past.
Tessler, a counselor at DHS for 16 years, said that “The reasoning behind the new policy is attendance. What happens when students aren’t in class? The school loses money and they’re not learning.”
According to Tessler, DHS lost about $100 thousand because of student absences last year alone.
The new policy has some students angered. “It’s giving kids an easy way to fail. All it would take is a few unexcused absences to make you truant which could hurt student’s records, like seniors who are about to graduate this year,” senior Caroline Johnson said.
Another component of the newer policy is that students cannot sign themselves out even if they’re 18.
“I don’t agree with the new policy, because if 18 year olds do not want to go to class, it’s their adult decision to do so,” senior Jacob Vanderbilt said.
Tessler disagrees. “I think you should be able to sign your own note, but 18 year old seniors have abused that privilege.”
According to vice principal Tom McHale the reasoning behind the truancy policy is a simple one. “We were allowing for many more truancies than most districts, I would say, and we changed the policy to be more aligned with state regulations” McHale said.
Some students, however, believe the school’s motive is mainly financial. “I’m not accusing them of anything, but having all your kids at school is a good way to make money in a budget crunch,” Vanderbilt said.
It is no secret that California schools are impacted, but Tessler maintains that “Attendance is the primary key factor. Attendance is number one.”
There are other rule changes that have been put in place this year to go along with the new policy for truancy. According to the student handbook, it is now against the rules to go to your car in the parking lot between classes to get a book or other class materials.
“It really stinks because I used my car as a locker, now I have to carry all my books with me to class,” senior George Hatamiya said. However, Hatamiya also said, “But I understand the reasoning, they just want kids in class.”