This is a dilemma. A red letter day for educators everywhere….

I get this call, paraphrased it went like this.

Hello,

My son was just issued a warning that he had missed more than Christina’s required days of school(5). No longer am I, their parent, allowed to excuse them for being sick with a note from myself; he must now have a note from the doctor. We are one of those with no insurance, so you know how much that would cost us! There is nothing permanently wrong with my child; just over the fall, he woke up too sick (fever with sniffles) to go to school in our opinion, and we kept him home to get well, as well as not contaminate others. Usually the next day he was fine, and quite able to catch up on missed work and with this pattern he has kept his grades up well. Today, he sent a message home he was coughing up blood, and came home, announced he had the flu, and went to bed and is coughing now. I can’t send him to school tomorrow; I have no money till payday next Monday. What can I do? Why do they have that stupid rule anyway? That’s barely one sick day a month, so far, and there are 7 months left!

So that is what started this investigation.

First the Christina Code of Conduct to verify the story….. Remember this is based on state law, to which they have to comply. However, in the state code I did not see this limit on 5 excused absences requiring further documentation. I am hoping a comment can direct me there?

The fines were rather severe, particularly to families in financial dire straits which would probably include 99% of Christina’s district.

First offense: fine of $25 to $300 or imprisonment for up to 10 days or both
Second offense: fine of $50 to $500 or imprisonment for up to 20 days or both
Third offense: fine of $230 to $1,150 or imprisonment for up to 30 days or both

It it my reading that these would only be used as a last resort. But the point I am making, is that the choice between a) sending a sick child to school; b) going to a doctor and paying 50% of one weeks salary to get a written excuse, and c) court settlement, fines, and imprisonment, choice a) is going to win every time.

And that is just plain wrong….

Now I actually remember why this was put in place. Schools were incapable of monitoring children who didn’t show up. Parents were legislatively held responsible. If a parent is going to jail for not insuring their child is in school, there is a better chance than not, that the child will show up in school.. I get that. However what is appalling is that there is no safety valve, one allowing good students who get sick, to stay home with their parent’s permission…..

It gets worse.

This flu is reported to be one of the deadliest in our lives. We appear to be on the cusp of a real pandemic. This is not the normal flu. This is one like the 1918 one. You have to read it to appreciate it’s extent….

Just a quick search. Three dead in Vermont. 2 dead Orange County. 2 dead in Sacramento. 8 in Oklahoma. 9 in South Dakota. Fifteen dead in Indiana. 18 in Massachusetts. In Minnesota as of today, 27 people are dead, out of 400 infected. Making the death rate 6.7%. The flu of 1918 worldwide in a time of no modern medicine, killed at estimated a 10%-20% level. The normal level is 0.1%. Put in shock and awe language, that means there is a 6700 greater chance you will die from this flu, than any of the past in our lifetimes….

If this sounds uncharacteristically shocking, it is because I’m just finding out the figures now… Last week, we incurred 801 deaths from influenza and pneumonia (they work hand in hand so both are included). the CDC is probably processing a future warning right now.

The CDC is reporting that the week before 12/29/12, 2961 persons tested positive for flu. The next week, 801 died. If there is any correlation between the numbers, that means a death rate of 27.05%… That is too high to believe, but it should be enough to sound the alarm… We are in the middle of a crises.

Because looking on the surface, out of roughly 3000 cases of flu, 800 died…. I don’t want to get too distracted upon the argument of just how bad this is looking, just want acceptance that is is bad…

If you look for national data on this right now, through the internet engines, it hasn’t been compiled yet. This is just the first attempt to make sense of the raw data being reported by the CDC. For us in Delaware, this just appeared out of no where over Christmas break…. I don’t think anyone has looked at this nationally on the scale required yet. We have flu’s every year. In truth, the only reason I would be delving through it today, is because or the random request I mentioned at the top of this post….

Looking At The Historical Peaks This One Will Dwarf All Others
Courtesy of CDC FluView.

And that doesn’t yet include the data from this past January 5th week.

Here is kavips recommendation on what should be done.

A) The requirement for a doctor’s note for each absence needs a temporary abatement based on the virulent nature of this flu. One doctors note for a duration of absences needs to be sufficient.

B) All parents in the district and in the state, need an email blast alerting them to the extreme danger of this flu, which states that if a child is sick or exhibiting symptoms, he is required to stay home to stop the spreading contamination. It would be kind to mention that grace will be extended to all absences over this time, simply to put parents afraid of legal ramifications at ease and prevent them from being too scared to comply with the order.

C) If a school gets below 80% attendance level, it needs to close for a week. We don’t need to teach something, and teach it again, and teach it again, and teach is again as the surviving students filter back into class. That is a waste of resources.

D) Recommend use of hand sanitizer whenever possible, at home, work, or school.

E) Warning that flu shots are a state priority, and should be mandatory considering the high rate of death this time. Those not having one, need one now.

To help our administration out, I’ll point to this option in the state code regarding relaxing regulations in the schools.

Title 14, Chapter 16.

The Department of Education shall have the authority to waive or suspend provisions of the Delaware Code in the implementation of programs authorized under this chapter; provided however, that such waiver or suspension of a provision of the Code shall not result in an increased financial obligation to the State. The Department of Education is also authorized to waive or suspend its rules and regulations in order to maximize the projected impact of programs authorized under this chapter. The State Board shall be advised of any waiver of a regulation it must promulgate or approve, and may deny such waiver within 30 days or by the next regularly scheduled meeting, whichever is earlier, of the waiver’s approval by the Department.

(This was from another Chapter other than that previously quoted on attendance, but it shows the precedent and legal standing for exercising extraordinary measures in extraordinary times.)

As I alluded to, this is all coming so fast. It is as if trying to cross the street and peaking around a parked truck and seeing death in the form of a truck barreling down right on top of you. It’s a little unnerving.