School Tells 12-Year-Old a Child's Funeral Is No Reason to Miss School

empty desk classroomEarth to common sense: come in, common sense! A family in Texas is livid after learning their 12-year-old son's absence from school will not be excused because he had missed classes to attend a cousin's funeral—and a cousin is, apparently, not on the same level as a mother, father, sister, brother, or grandparent in their eyes.


Christine Barr's son, who is a student at Mayde Creek Junior High in the Katy ISD school district, missed school so he could attend the funeral of his 5-year-old cousin Fiona "Kitty" Carroll, who died tragically when she drowned in a marina last month.

This story is all kinds of strange because, at first, Barr says the school counted him as absent on days when he was in class and then, when he missed class to attend the funeral, refused to excuse his absence because the death wasn't one that affected a member of his "nuclear" family.

Adding insult on top of injury, Barr says she received a letter from Katy ISD police threatening to fine and prosecute her if her son missed additional days of school.

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We've heard about parents who became angry when their child's school refused to excuse them so they could go on a vacation. Personally, I've rolled my eyes reading about these parents because my feeling is: you planned your vacation at a certain time of the year. You have the right to take your child out of school if you feel that's the right thing to do, but the school is equally as entitled to hold firm to its unexcused absence policy.

If you chose to have a holiday in the sun while other classmates were hitting the books, fine. But buck up and deal with the consequences.

This has zero in common with those stories. The death of a family member is (generally) unexpected. This boy wasn't being pulled out to ride the Downhill Double Dipper at Disney World—he was in mourning with his family and learning to cope with his own emotions, which is as much an education as children get in the classroom.

It isn't up to a school to determine whether the relationship between a child and his or her cousin or aunt or whomever is more valid than one between a child and grandparent. If parents feel their child should be excused from school to attend a funeral, there should be absolutely no push-back from the school.

Should children be excused from school to attend funerals, regardless of whether the person who passed away is a member of their nuclear family?


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