Attendance Requirement May Violate Student Rights

June 16, 1999 12:00 am

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BURBANK, CA — Burbank’s school district is coming under fire from the American Civil Liberties Union and the city’s Human Relations Council for a graduation requirement the groups say is unfair and, possibly, unconstitutional, the Burbank Leader reported today.

According to district rules, students can be barred from graduation ceremonies for several reasons, including missing more than 15 periods of a class in a semester — regardless of whether the absences were excused.

Taylor Flynn, an attorney with the ACLU of Southern California, told the paper that punishing students for excused absences “seems arbitrary and unduly punitive.”

District policy states there are absences for which students cannot be penalized. Those include health reasons, court appearances or a funeral.

Flynn told the Leader that one Burroughs student with 17 absences has been kept from participating in graduation, even though two of her absences resulted from jury duty.

Flynn also expressed concerns about the district’s appeal procedures, which she said might be denying students their constitutional right to due process.

Decisions can be appealed in writing to a panel that includes the Director of Secondary Education, school administrators and the student’s counselor.

Flynn said the students should be given the opportunity for a second appeal. Some students interviewed by the ACLU said they were not informed of the results of their appeals until last week and were not given reasons for the decisions, she said.

“There are arguable constitutional violations here, but we would like to resolve this informally with the school district if possible,” Flynn said.

Do you have questions about your rights in school? Ask Sybil Liberty at /students/sybil.html

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