Oct 31, 2011 8:53 PM by Matt Stafford

Local parent and D-11 face off over absence policy

A Colorado Springs parent took on School District 11 after he says an administrator told him to have his son work during after school "service" hours, or deal with truancy court. However his son has only missed three days all year.

After several calls getting nowhere, Jeremy George says he felt his only option was to call News 5.

It all started when George's son came home from school with a letter a couple of weeks ago; it said he had three unexcused days of classes, so he would need to give 23 school service hours at his school -- Mitchell High.

"Exactly what was told to him was that these school service hours; that he would be stacking books, cleaning desks, and anything that the teachers needed him to do," says George.

George's son isn't 16 yet; he isn't old enough to get a job for himself. George doesn't like the idea of him working for the school for free.

The discipline also means that George would have to leave early from work to pick up his son. The letter also included some things for the parent.

"It's a contract between me and the school," explains George. "Transport Jeremy (his son) to school and walk him to Mr. Blanc's office upon request," George reads; it also says he might have to sit through a day of class if the school asks.

"I leave the house at 4:50 in the morning, well before he goes to school; there is no possible way I can accommodate that," says George.

At the end of the letter it warns him to follow through or go to truancy court.

"I'm not about to sign a contract that know that I cannot possibly uphold because of my work," George explains.

However, George says the explanation did more harm than good when he took it to the school. He says he was told he can sign the contract and have his son do the work or face the truancy courts.

George doesn't see how the school can even be close to taking that step. His son has only missed three days all year; two of them were for custody hearings that George called the school about.

The district says they needed documentation and never received it; George said the cases were at the beginning of the year, but they asked for documentation last Wednesday, and he sent it to the school with his son on Monday.

State law says 4 unexcused absences in a month qualifies someone as a habitual truant; or ten unexcused absences in a year.

D-11 says the focus of the school service hours is for students to do school work; if they don't have any, then they can help out around the school. The district also says showing up isn't mandatory.

"It's something that we do in addition to the regular school day to give an option," explains Devra Ashby, a spokesperson for D-11.

"The way it was presented to me is that he WILL do this," says George; he says he was told it's that or deal with the courts.

"We try to make an attempt to educate parents some of the laws that we follow," says Ashby. "If the pattern continues, it could eventually turn into truant situation that would involve the legal system."

George's son isn't quite to truant status yet.

"If they would have just called, prior to all this, we may not even be here," says George.

George got a call from Mitchell's principal Monday afternoon; after contacting News 5. George says the principal apologized for any confusion and told him not to worry about the contract.

George said he wanted to continue with the story so other parents would know.



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