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Challenges with Student Absences and Open-Ended Excuses

Although we are close to making it through the busiest months of seasonal illnesses, we aren’t out of the woods yet. While it may be convenient and quick to provide open-ended excuses for student absences, it is essential to be specific about the number of days the student will be absent/late and give an end date for the excuse. This way, the school nurse, teachers, and school administrators can better understand when absences are reasonable or when they are becoming a cause for concern.

It’s easy to understand why parents or caregivers might want to provide open-ended excuses for their child(ren) missing school. They might want to avoid asking you and your team for a doctor’s excuse every time it’s needed, or they may forget. But open-ended excuses aren’t the best option and specificity matters.

Notes with a beginning and end date—even if those dates are weeks away—are so helpful to school nurses and administrators tracking attendance records. Specific dates and details in doctors’ notes help us identify when absences become concerning. It helps teachers plan by understanding when to expect students back in class. Dates and details from you can indicate if learning accommodations are needed or not to keep the student’s education on track.

Along with helping to identify possible attendance issues, being specific helps limit how many times someone might ask you and your staff to provide documentation for each absence. As we move through the second stretch of the school year, we can all work together to support our students’ physical, emotional, mental, and academic health and wellbeing. Your partnership and continued commitment to student health are much appreciated.

Through a partnership with Moses Taylor Foundation, the Lackawanna and Luzerne County Medical Societies has been exploring ways to better collaborate with our region’s school nurses. We’re pleased to share a series of articles over the next few months to open conversations and highlight topics that matter to our regional healthcare community.

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