November 27, 2004


Boy's religious absences stir flap at Indiana school (Associated Press, November 26, 2004)

A mother said a Lowell, Ind., school has threatened to expel her 6th-grade son if he misses any more days, even if he is absent for religious reasons.

Ruth Scheidt said Lowell Middle School officials had her 12-year-old son sign a letter last month stating he understood that he could be expelled if he missed another day of school for any reason before the end of the semester in January.

The family had just returned from an out-of-state, eight-day religious observance called the Feast of Tabernacles, celebrated by the United Church of God.

Scheidt said she told the Tri-Creek School Corporation well in advance of taking her son to the observance and presented a letter from the church explaining the holy days.

Alice Neal, superintendent of the school district south of Gary, said that the issue was a misunderstanding and that she told Scheidt the policy on excused absences, five of which are allowed per semester.

Excuses include illness with a doctor's note, a death in the immediate family, quarantine or court appearance. Neal said the schools accept one day off per semester for religious observance, and the family had used that already.

The solution seems obvious enough: give the family a voucher valued at whatever the per capita spending is per pupil in Lowell. It looks like that's probably about $5000, which would easily pay for a private/parochial alternative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 27, 2004 6:19 AM

We went through something like this with our kids. We told the principal & district superintendent that they were confused about who the parents were; that _we_ were their parents, not the school.

Posted by: ray at November 27, 2004 9:04 AM

Isn't this a state intrusion on the Free Exercise of Religion? Attendance at a public school is a right, not a privilege. It may be a curse but is not the State's to bestow on its favored few.

This is an example of anti-Christian crap from a state flunky. Orthodox practice requires one to be in services for several days around Passover and the High Holy Days, both of which occur during the school year. I can assure you that if a school district tried this nonsense on any of my Orthodox relatives and their kids, they'd be in court with the appropriate relief faster than you can say 'Alan Dershowitz.'

Posted by: Bart at November 27, 2004 10:00 AM

I wonder if the teachers and administration of the school have the same "excused absences" policy as the students have.

Posted by: Henry IX at November 27, 2004 11:52 AM

And the administration didn't have the guts to face the parents with this requirement. They had a twelve-year-old boy sign this letter of understanding.

Posted by: Henry IX at November 27, 2004 12:03 PM

One of the funny parts of the whole "reinstate the draft" panic was how the people most paniced had just spent a dozen years of their short lives in an institution in which all non-trivial options are suppressed and where attendence and participation is mandatory. And the only people who show any inclination to want to change that situation for those that follow them are Evil Republicans™.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at November 27, 2004 12:25 PM

While I can't be bothered to do the Chicago Tribune's registration routine, I feel that if there was anything in the story regarding the student's academic standing you would have excerpted, or, at least, commented on.
if the young man is meeting or exceeding the academic requirements of his grade level, why should anyone care if he misses more than 1 (one) allowed religious observance day?
However, should he be falling behind his classmates, doubtful I know, then perhaps he should be spending more time in class.

Posted by: Mike Daley at November 27, 2004 9:18 PM


How much of grade school would you have had to miss before it mattered in your life? I'll accept the answer: "missing all would not have mattered."

Posted by: oj at November 27, 2004 9:29 PM

therein lies the rub. going to grade school in the late 40's and early 50's I learned much, most importantly reading. Also we learned a more accurate and challenging history and civics than today's high school students are exposed to.
We could all balance a checkbook in the 3rd grade, another capability most of today's high school graduates would seem incapable of.
Today I watch elementary school students trudging to and from school toting backpacks of at least 10-15 #'s, while we never brought a book home from school (the books were not allowed out of the classroom) take home consisted of "mimeographed" vocabulary, spelling and arithmetic problems.
All of this is, however, beside the point. If the student is at or above where all testing says he should be, then his abscences are irrelevant. If he's behind, he should be in school.
of course given what we know of his family, he should be home-schooled where his progress would far exceed that of such a rigid school system.

Posted by: Mike Daley at November 27, 2004 11:47 PM