Students who want to attend protests and rallies get excused absences in D.C. and in the Virginia counties of Fairfax and Arlington. And some elected leaders in Maryland want the same for kids in Montgomery County Public Schools.
“We hope they’ll study it. We hope they’ll evaluate this,” said Del. Vaughn Stewart of Montgomery County.
Vaughn is among 18 state and local leaders who signed a letter appealing to the Board of Education to consider excused absences for students who want to participate in civic engagement.
“The Board of Education is in receipt of the letter and welcomes all feedback from stakeholders,” MCPS spokesman Derek Turner told WTOP via email. “In alignment with Board process and procedure, the Board’s Policy Management Committee will review this request and determine if and when the policy will be taken up.”
The next meeting of that committee is scheduled for January 2020.
Board of Education member Patricia O’Neill introduced a policy change proposal in September 2018 that would allow students to be excused a limited number of times to do such things as testify at public hearings or march in protests.
Board members expressed concern that excusing absences could create logistical problems for parents and principals and potential safety issues for when children are off campus; the proposal was tabled earlier this year.
Stewart understands that coming up with a policy would be challenging, but he believes it’s worth a try. He cited research and multiple studies that he said find improved outcomes — i.e. higher graduation rates and college attendance — for students who engage with their community and apply what they’re learning in the classroom to the real world.
“Maybe because of the safety and logistical hurdles, maybe it’s not in the cards for Montgomery County to pull off,” Stewart said. “What I really hope to happen is that if there’s a proposal on the table, a new one, that the Board of Education studies it thoroughly and comes to some kind of decision.”
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