This time of year is always incredibly stressful for any high school or college student, it’s midterm time everybody! The semester is so close to being over, it’s almost to Christmas and time for a great break, but in order to get there, you have to pass exams for every class. Woop de doo. Luckily, at my school, we are allowed to exempt three of our exams as long as we have good grades, and not very many absences. Good grades? Check. Limited number of absences? Oof. The first semester isn’t over and I have around 8 or 9 absences per class due to taking rest time for myself, and for doctor appointments, meaning I have to take all of my exams, despite my overall GPA being over 103. Why do my absences matter to the school in the first place? They are linked to funding for the school.
According to MyTexasPublicSchool.org, “School districts in Texas receive state funding based in part on Average Daily Attendance (ADA) numbers. ADA is a figure that indicates the average number of students who attend a particular school district in a school year. ADA is a key number in a formula that ultimately determines how much money your school gets from the state.” Meaning simply, when I miss school to take care of myself, the school loses money.
The good news for me, is that I am on a 504 plan, which allows accommodations due to my illnesses. I was told that my absences won’t be a problem and would not hold me back from graduating or make me lose credit for my classes as long as I was still communicating with my teachers, and counselors, and bringing notes in from my parents for my absences. Fantastic! It’s been a load off to not have to worry about those and to know that I have the support from the school to take care of myself first, before my school work. I have had my counselor tell me that this was the case, and even an Assistant Principal confirm that to my parents. I think education is so important, but I think that physical and mental health comes first, and I think schools should respect that. Them having plans in place to deal with students like me who have disabilities or students who need frequent doctor appointments, students who have mental health issues and need help from therapists or doctors., etc., definitely need to have the support from the school to take care of themselves.
This year, I’ve been missing more school than the past two years. I’ve had worsening symptoms; my fatigue and pain level have been worse and I’ve been taking more time to catch up on rest and keep myself from pushing too hard by going through school. There has not been a single day that I have stayed home that I have felt like was unnecessary. I’m proud of myself for putting my health first, because I feel like that’s a skill I’m going to need to have for my life after high school, since my illnesses are going to continue to be around.
These past two weeks, however, my support from the school was seemingly ripped away. My mom received a call from a different assistant principal than we talked to last year, who said that I would need two attend two sessions of Saturday school, which I have to pay for, in order to make up the hours from the days that I’ve missed. I’ve made up all of the work that I’ve missed, or I’ve communicated with my teachers to let them know that it’s going to get done, so there’s not a whole lot that I would work on during Saturday school, and I don’t feel like I should have to go make up the time for work I’ve already completed. Why should I have to spend a large chunk of my weekend being punished for missing school when I have a completely legitimate reason for missing….that the school knows about? We immediately reached out and explained the situation to him, and are reaching out to other counselors and teachers to gain support for my situation. Then, today, we received another call saying that if I don’t bring a doctor’s note explaining all of my absences, and if I missed another day of school this semester, then I won’t get credit for my classes.
I’m beyond angry. Why should the priority of the administration at the school be anything other than their students’ education and well being? My Texas Public School also says, “if a student misses nine days during the 180-day school year, the district loses 5 percent of the funding a student with perfect attendance would generate.” Given the fact that I’m on a 504 plan that the school always has access to, the fact that I’ve communicated to my teachers and administrators every time I was going to be gone, and that I have a ONE HUNDRED AND THREE GPA reeeeeeeallly makes me question that the motives behind these phone calls are anything other than money based. There NEEDS to be a protocol and communication between administrators for how to handle situations like mine, so that I don’t get told a different thing by every person that I talked to. I’m fortunate enough to have parents who have the flexibility to contact the school and fight for me, but, they shouldn’t have to. The school should be working with the students to help get them the best education suited for them; students who have disabilities and busy parents or guardians shouldn’t be left with no defense.
My family and I are going to continue to push the administrators at my school and pull legal information and learn my rights and the rights of those with disabilities in Texas in regards to accommodations in school, because what we have right now just isn’t cutting it. This fight is for me, and for those in the future with chronic illnesses, to relieve the immense amount of unnecessary anxiety that is already adding onto the existing stress of dealing with chronic illness. I’m experiencing debilitating anxiety that has been solely set off from this situation. My stress level is already high because of dealing with health issues, hard classes at school, extra curricular activities for theatre and American Sign Language, and a part time job… I don’t need ANYTHING else added to my plate. Especially not from the institution that is supposed to be helping me along through my education, on my terms. I’m an 18 year old just trying to enjoy her senior year. I’ve got leadership responsibilities and things I’m passionate about, colleges to apply for and I’m getting excited about my future, and I hate that the thing that’s supposed to compel me forward is holding me back. I just want to enjoy going to school again, instead of dreading every morning. I want to enjoy the all school musical I’m stage managing and the play I was just casted in, instead of feeling distracted thinking about this situation. There’s no reason for me to feel this much pressure, and I’m not going to stop fighting it until it’s taken care of.
If you’re interested in learning more about the accommodations I have from my 504 plan, message me on any of my social media platforms that you can find on my “About” page, or visit my “Contact me” page and send me a message. The more people know about these issues, the less there will be ignorant situations like this in the future. I will do whatever it takes to make sure that the people at my school don’t have to deal with this anymore, and if I need to take further actions or need support, I hope to see some of you guys backing me! Thanks so much for continuing to read my sporadic updates, it means the world to see more people learning about these issues that are so close to me.