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Why Do We Honor Kids Who Have Never Missed a Day of School?

sick kidsThe other day my daughter, Nina, got hit with a 24-hour flu bug that had her kneeling over the toilet all morning long. I felt bad for her, and don’t know for sure where she picked it up, but that’s not important. Right now I’m just waiting with bated breath, praying I won’t be the grippe’s next victim.

What I do know is I was rarely sick until my kids started attending school. I’m not complaining, mind you — I’m just pointing out a cold hard fact. Before then, I rarely was afflicted by influenza. And when I got the sniffles, more often than not it was because I was watching a tear-jerker, as opposed to suffering from a cold virus.

It makes sense. After all, because kids’ hygiene habits are generally worse than most adults, they tend to pass bugs back and forth with reckless abandon; it’s basically second nature to them.

With that in mind, can somebody please tell me how any kid manages to get through an entire school year without missing a single day of instruction? It’s not impossible, but the odds are definitely long.

The Folly of Perfect Attendance Awards

They say perfect is the enemy of good, but that didn’t stop 20 or so kids at Nina’s 6th grade graduation ceremony from receiving awards for not missing a day of school this year. And although it’s not as bad as awarding kids $100 for avoiding truancy, just when did giving recognition for essentially doing what’s expected of us come into vogue?

Still, I wonder how so many kids can manage to have perfect attendance. When my kids bring home from school some nasty bug, I tend to contract the same debilitating illness about half the time.

It strains credulity to assume that kids with perfect attendance, who are in a high-risk environment on a daily basis, somehow managed to avoid contracting a plague of their own at least once during the school year. Then again, maybe these kids have bionic immune systems.

If you think that’s crazy, Nina’s school also gave a special attendance award to at least one child who had gone — get this — seven years without missing a single day of school. That’s right; kindergarten through 6th grade. Not one case of the stomach flu. Not one fever.

Apparently, that kid intends on matching the dubious feat of Rock Hill school district students Katelyn Jackson and Kyle Yarborough who were celebrated in the media for graduating without ever missing a single day of school during their entire 13 year academic journey. Really?

These kids shouldn’t be honored. If we’re being honest with ourselves, the odds are those kids went to school sick many times over the years — and are probably responsible for directly infecting hundreds of kids who would not have otherwise been afflicted. Taking it a step further, those same kids are also indirectly responsible for getting parents like you and me sick as well.

While the intentions may be noble, perfect attendance awards encourage some children to attend school when they are sick. Ironically, the end result is many more students — at least those with responsible parents — often end up missing school than they would otherwise after being infected by these contagious kids.

Think about that the next time your son or daughter begs you to send them to school even though they’ve got a nasty cough, or are running a fever. And if your child just tossed last night’s dinner into the toilet but insists they suddenly feel fine, don’t believe them — they’re not.

I wouldn’t ever knowingly send my kids to school under those circumstances. I expect you to show the same courtesy to me and my kids.

Photo Credit: mriggen

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(This is an updated article that was originally published on June 3rd, 2011.)

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