Changes Needed for Senior Exemption

Senior Exemption is a privilege that is available to all Dominion students who meet certain criteria. The qualification criteria is listed on page six of the Dominion Senior Packet and includes that to qualify a student must maintain over a 70% average (C-) for the second semester through the first eight weeks of the fourth nine-week grading period, a student can be absent for no more than two class periods in block classes, and a student cannot have academic integrity violations that result in disciplinary action.

The grade and academic integrity violation criteria make perfect sense to me. A 70% grade average is very reasonable for all kids and cheating speaks for itself. The issue I have with this entire process comes with the absences. Once a student exceeds the allowed two absences, teachers and administration have the power to not allow seniors exemption for their culminating assessment in that class they miss. I would understand if this was just unexcused absences, but it clearly states on page 6 of the Senior Packet that “All other non-school related absences – whether excused or unexcused – will be counted as absences from class.” 

I can think of numerous scenarios where a senior would miss a class for legitimate reasons. Let’s just start with the most obvious one: sickness. I have first-hand experience from last year and this year of seniors coming to school with boxes of tissues, sneezing all over the place and putting their classmates at risk of contamination. A girl in my broadcast class last year was so sick she wore a mountain of jackets and could barely comprehend what was going on in class.A kid in my psychology class last year came to school with the flu, putting us all at risk. 

All this just to get senior exemption because the rules don’t allow them more than two absences! You could make the argument, “Well, they are allowed these two absences. They can just take those days for sickness.” Sure. That’s fair, though you would be forgetting some other potential factors. What if that kid still isn’t accepted to college and needs to go on a college visit on a school day because they cannot go on the weekend? College is one of the biggest decisions of a person’s life and that counts against the senior exemption absence total. Now students have to pick their poison. Let these kids come to school and infect other kids and staff so they can go on a college tour to help them make the right choice for their future. Or, keep them home and not let them go on a visit so now they can’t visit a college and have a first-hand experience of a place they could be spending their next four years. 

It is also confusing as a student to know how to handle the situation. We already have two situations where the absences are causing issues, now let me present some more situations we can throw into the mix. How many of the 1,615 Dominion students have lost a loved one in their lives? At this stage of these kid’s lives, I have to imagine most. The death of a family member is an extremely sad and emotional event. Kids need time to grieve. 

Say a student took two sick days on A days earlier this year for the flu or some other reason. Then, that same student wakes up on an A day later in the year to learn someone they dearly loved passed away. Does the school really want a kid who is going to be just absolutely distraught throughout the day and who just wants to be grieving with their family forcing himself to go to school because the absence number that is allowed? What about that kid who is going to want emotional support from his friends, but he is isolated because their friends cannot support them since they are worrying about senior exemption? What if that family member is extremely sick and the student  does not know when the last time they will see them will be? Are you not going to allow a student who was sick for two A days and had to miss another one to say goodbye to a loved one get exemption? This is an event in a kid’s life that is life changing and it isn’t just something they can get over instantly. So now we already have sickness, college tours, and family tragedy. Here’s one final scenario: travel sporting events. 

Titans who play high-level travel sports will find themselves a few times each year having to leave school on a Friday for different events. I, personally, have already skipped two travel games this year on Fridays because I was worried about my absence number. You could easily say that this isn’t on the same level as the other three situations, but let’s think about it from two different points of view. To start, if you are part of these high-level teams there is a good chance you want to play that sport in college. If a senior still isn’t committed, these showcases and tournaments are crucial to their recruitment. With the absence number in the way that makes them skip games and events that hold them back from realizing their dream of playing in college and possibly prohibiting them from getting into an institution that has great academics that they wouldn’t be able to get into without sports. 

Also, these high-level athletes aren’t just benefiting themselves while playing these sports. Over their time at Dominion they have propelled the image of the school by using their talents to improve sports teams and win awards that bring recognition to our school. Why not give a little lead way for the kids who want to achieve their dreams and have been so “Truly Titan” over the years. Now we have four very real situations where those two absences can easily be surpassed. 

At the Senior meeting, Dr. Brewer discussed the Senior Packet by saying,  “Now obviously if you’re sick, don’t come to school,” but then on the announcements always talks about how “crucial” it is we are always in attendance at school. So which is it?

A basic argument is just don’t get senior exemption. What’s the big deal? What if one of these situations happens to you and all your friends are hanging out and you are missing on getting extra time with the friends you have grown up with before we all go off our separate ways? That would hurt. A lot. Imagine losing time in your final semester with your best friends because your grandmother passed away and you had the flu. Doesn’t seem right, does it? My thought on it is why not just make it grade-based. If a student misses two A days and gets a 71 average but another kid misses four A days and has a 93 average but doesn’t get exemption, how is that fair? 

There are two potential solutions to this problem. First off, you can change the senior exemption rules to allow for more absences. I would say six A Days and six B Days. That way you can’t just miss unlimited days, but that amount allows for many circumstances to occur. You could up the senior exemption grade average requirement to a 75 as well to make up for if kids start abusing the days as well. 

Secondly, you could just designate one day that is the day that seniors in good standing will be able to leave school. That way there are no complications with kids trying to fight for their exemption, many less angry parents and much less  stress on teachers and students who have to deal with the absence rule. I just do not think two A and two B Days of absences makes much sense with so many situations that can occur for second semester seniors.