18-year-old students CAN excuse themselves from school

Photo illustration: Senior Chris Garrison pretends to sign himself out of school. Photo by Ashley Han.
Photo illustration: Senior Chris Garrison pretends to sign himself out of school. Photo by Ashley Han.
By Ashley Han,
Bluedevilhub.com Editor—

According to the Davis High administration, 18-year-old students have the right to excuse their own absences as long as the absence meets one of the criteria defined by the California Department of Education.

District head of Student Services Laura Juanitas stated that “the school district cannot bar rights of students unless it involves the health and safety of the student or of other students.”

So, why did DHS not allow 18-year-old students from signing themselves out of school for the past three years? Vice Principal Stacy Desideri recalls what happened during former Principal Jacqui Moore’s administration.

“[Moore] shared with the administrative staff, a number of years ago, that she was aware of some pending legislation [because] a family had sued a school district because they had permitted an 18-year-old to sign themselves out school, and the 18-year-old had left school and then either [got] injured or killed in a car accident,” Desideri said. She noted that the incident had not happened in Davis.

The family was suing the district because they did not give permission to allow their child to leave school, and if the school had not allowed him to leave, he would still be alive.

“The reason that was explained to me, and this was three years ago, was about [Moore’s] concern over the pending legislation and how it might impact [DHS] and until we knew; she was going to move this other direction,” Desideri said.

Principal William Brown, who replaced Moore, said “with respect to Dr. Moore’s rule, I don’t know exactly what that is; I’ve never seen it.” However, he did say, a law must be followed until changed.

“But what I am willing to do is sit with students, parents, staff and talk about a rule we can apply [and] all live with,” Brown said.

California Education Code 46012 states “For purposes of any procedure for verification of absences from school, a student 18 years of age or over, with respect to his absences from school, shall have all the responsibilities and powers which, in case of a minor, would be charged to the parent, guardian, or other person having charged or control of the minor.”

Angela Galdamez, Litigation Assistant of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California, mentioned in an email that, while FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) gives parents certain rights regarding their children’s education records, these rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of eighteen or attends a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are considered “eligible students.”

However, all absences, whether explained by a parent or a student over the age of 18, can only be excused if they meet certain criteria. Galdamez noted that “California Education Code 48205 outlines the definition of an excused absence and how notification of this absence should be lodged with [the] school.”

Although 18-year-old students have the power to excuse themselves, an absence will not be excused unless it is in one of the categories listed on the district website.

“If you said ‘I have the right to write the note,’ of course you do, [but] here in the student planner, are the reasons you can excuse yourself. On page 4, those are the only legitimate reasons to be out of school. Everything else is unexcused, and remember that it doesn’t matter if this is August 28th or June 2nd, if it’s not for one of these reasons,” Desideri said.

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