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Letters to the Editor for May 6, 2022: Reform truancy policies

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Reform truancy policies

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

Current truancy policies in Richmond Public Schools prohibit flexible and equitable learning environments.

As a social work student intern, I meet with individuals diagnosed with sickle cell disease in an outpatient setting. A few weeks ago, a mother told me her child’s truancy due to medical absences almost sent her, as a mother, to jail.

For readers unfamiliar with sickle cell disease, it is a lifelong, complicated and life-threatening condition. Patients have experienced a lack of adequate care and attention in hospitals, rooted in systemic racism and discrimination. In addition to this inequity, hearing that students with sickle cell disease were lacking attention and understanding in the classroom was deeply upsetting.

In two-plus years of COVID-19, school systems have had to adjust to online learning environments, extend homework deadlines and become more flexible overall. Why can't these same practices be extended in other situations?

As the pandemic continues to impact learning, truancy in Richmond schools persists, with systems seemingly unable to adjust or implement effective changes.

Harsh policies and threats of jail seem to be ineffective ways to handle absenteeism. They fail to get to the root of other issues like medical concerns, trauma, family dynamics or transportation.

Rather than continuing to put Band-Aids on the issue, truancy policies need to be reformed. Students should be provided accommodations that allow them to fully show up in the classroom. School systems should provide equitable care rather than relying on reactive solutions.

Isabella Kitzmann.

Richmond.

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