Attendance Shouldn’t Be High Stakes

This image depicts trophies that are often a physical representation of attendance achievements. These create an exclusive nature around perfect attendance, causing a toxic school culture going into high school and beyond.

Isabella Mahar

This image depicts trophies that are often a physical representation of attendance achievements. These create an exclusive nature around perfect attendance, causing a toxic school culture going into high school and beyond.

Isabella Mahar, Opinion Editor

There are so many great ways students are rewarded these days. From GPA’s to athletic awards, students get recognized for doing great things in a positive way. One form of reward that should not exist are perfect attendance awards or attendance based grades because they are unfair towards students.

The use of attendance based rewards is inherently ableist. For children with disabilities and chronic illness, they simply cannot come to school every day of the year. These people have to miss school more than most for many reasons, and that is not their fault, and the blame should not be placed on them for something that is a part of them. It is ableist for schools to create these awards that puts a bias on children without disabilities because they are able to attend school more.

But even if you don’t have a chronic illness, everyone still gets sick. It is a part of life, so much so that in the 2019-2020 flu season 38 million people in the U.S. got the flu. People often dismiss the flu and colds as inconsequential illnesses, however they can get severe. It doesn’t help if a child goes to school while sick instead of recovering simply for the sake of attendance. This allows for children to pass it on to fellow students and educators. 

It makes them want to follow along just to be a part of the “in” crowd, and feel bad when circumstances don’t allow them to,”

That isn’t just an elementary problem though, as a lot of the times high schoolers are even worse. They force themselves to go to school in fear of messing up their attendance record, preferring to put others at risk and themselves getting worse. This is only enabled by teachers who grade based on attendance. Nothing is worse than being in close proximity to someone who is ill yet refuses to do anything about it. 

Along with that people who have periods often have to miss school. This can be due to side effects such as cramps, nausea, headaches, etc. Or it can be because of the effects of “period poverty” where people do not have the adequate supplies to make it through a day at school. Either way, people who have periods should not have to suffer by spending the whole day at school when they aren’t up for it.

It is even classist as an absence could be due to a parent working conflict, a car breaking down and not being able to get to school or in the world of online learning: wifi issues, computer problems, or not having enough technology. 

Finally, sometimes people just need a day off. It is simply unreasonable to expect students to work themselves into the ground every day of the school year. Mental health days are extremely important in preventing burnout, and keeping students  wanting to do the work. 

The culture around getting one of these awards is exclusive and toxic, ingraining ideals of working through sickness, saying it’s wrong to miss a day. By giving children pizza parties and certificates, it rewards them for this behavior. 

But then it goes further to ostracize those who don’t. It makes them want to follow along just to be a part of the “in” crowd, and feel bad when circumstances don’t allow them to. 

No one should feel bad watching their peers get awards and feel as though they made a mistake taking time off. They shouldn’t watch their grade suffer because they missed a day or two. To create a standard and reward based off of students coming to school even when they can’t or shouldn’t isn’t something students deserve.