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Fining Parents For Children's School Absences: A New Study Shows Over Half Of Floridians Support This Opinion

July 11, 2024

Over the past few years, there have been substantial disruptions to the U.S. education system, resulting in challenges such as learning deficits, declining enrollment, and behavioral issues among students. Among these challenges, the surge in student absenteeism stands out as particularly widespread, affecting students across all demographic groups and persisting beyond the reopening of schools.

According to recent findings from the American Enterprise Institute, 26% of public school students were marked as chronically absent in the last school year, a significant increase from the Pre-Pandemic rate of 15%. Chronic absenteeism is typically defined as missing at least 10% of the school year, or roughly 18 days.

Experts in education point out that student absenteeism is a critical obstacle to overcome. Students who frequently miss school fall behind academically, and their absences also negatively impact their peers' learning experience, as teachers must continually adapt their instruction to meet the needs of an inconsistent class roster.

In a comprehensive survey conducted by Test Prep Insight, which included 3,000 parents, respondents were asked their opinions about absenteeism. One question was whether they believe parents of chronically absent school children should be fined. The results revealed that 54% of Floridians support the idea of fines as a deterrent against absenteeism, with an average suggested fine of $22 per day.

For the 44% who opposed fines, concerns centered on the potential unfairness to parents from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds. Among these respondents, 70% believe that schools or authorities should provide additional support for struggling students, 20% advocate for financial incentives for good attendance, and 10% suggest increased communication with parents to address absenteeism.

Additionally, 85% of respondents agree that parents of truant children should attend workshops or counseling sessions if their child is chronically absent.

One major factor contributing to chronic absenteeism is the rise in Mental Health struggles among students. To explore this issue, Test Prep Insight also surveyed Florida parents about Mental Health-related absences. An overwhelming 73% believe children should be allowed to take Mental Health days.

Infographic showing how parents’ views across the country regarding Mental Health days for their children (click on 'embed' to host on your site)

Barriers to Mental Health days include unsupportive school policies (47%) and social stigma (27%), while 26% of parents worry about their children falling behind academically. When asked what justifies a Mental Health day, 52% cited symptoms of a Mental Health Disorder, 24% mentioned family issues, 15% pointed to grieving a loss, and 8% noted feeling overwhelmed by schoolwork.

Regarding decision-making, 66% of parents believe they should have the final say on Mental Health days, 17% think it should be the child's physician or therapist, and 3% believe the school should decide.

Parents also shared how they think schools should support students taking Mental Health days: 33% suggested catch-up sessions, 30% recommended regular check-ins from counselors, 25% advocated for flexible deadlines, and 12% wanted assignments provided in advance.

When asked about changes they would like to see in handling Mental Health issues, 39% called for better teacher training on Mental Health Awareness, 23% wanted Mental Health Education in the curriculum, 21% sought improved communication between schools and parents, and 17% desired more on-site Mental Health Professionals.

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