Non-Participation List Puts Yet Another Burden On The School Lives Of ‘23 Class

Zora Hollie, Reporter

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The Class of 2023 has had a rocky high school experience.

 In 2020, our freshman year was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, where we, like the rest of the world, had to make a quick transition to online learning. Sophomore year was completed almost entirely through Zoom meetings, hindering students’ ability to feel connected with their peers and participate in extracurriculars.

 Following that, seniors were shoved into their junior year, which continued to be abnormal due to limited student activities and COVID-19 school policies. Now, seniors struggle to find a way to balance college applications and financial aid anxiety on top of their regular classwork. 

Long story short, the Class of 2023 deserves some normalcy in their high school experience, including activities like Senior Dinner and Prom. But, with the new Senior Non-Participation List, even those activities may be taken away. 

This policy started when seniors received a paper entitled the “Venice High School Student Responsibilities Student-Parent Agreement.” In this form, it was stated that students, in order to participate in senior activities, were required to have fewer than seven absences and ten tardies throughout the entire school year. 

 About 60% of seniors were placed on the “Senior Non-Participation List” for their absences and tardies. They received an appeals form as a way to again be eligible for senior activities. 

There are many unfair aspects of this whole ordeal, but here’s a few. 

For one, the “Senior Activities Appeals Form” itself is confusing, involving many complicated numbers and math. For example, to calculate how many service hours a student has to complete, this elaborate equation is used: __ day absences + (__ period absences/7) = ___ hours. 

Not only is this hard to understand, but it also includes both a student’s excused and unexcused absences. This means that if you were sick with COVID-19 or the flu, for instance, and already had your absence excused by the attendance office, you have to check your absence again with our PSA counselor, Dr. Patricia Austin. And, you can only go at lunch on a day of the week that corresponds with your last name. 

Kind of a hassle, right?

Furthermore, things that usually count for an excused absence, like family funerals, don’t count when it comes to senior activities. So, if you’ve recently had a death in your family, and have been struggling to get to school because of it, your senior activities are in jeopardy. 

Second, many seniors have already bought a ticket for activities that are on the chopping block. During the fall semester, Senior Spirit Packages were being sold for $190 and included a ticket to Prom and the Senior Dinner. Now, students may not be able to go to these activities, and the administration has not formally arranged any refund process.

The importance of holding students accountable for their attendance cannot be understated. When students are absent, it can have a huge impact on their performance. Plus, chronic absences can make a teacher’s job harder, causing them to have to juggle their lesson plans with catching up students who are behind. 

However, in my opinion, Venice’s administration has had an uniquely extreme response to absences in the senior class when it’s not a problem unique to Venice. 

Chronic student absenteeism has been a district-wide issue since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Last school year, nearly half of LAUSD students were chronically absent. Lack of access to transportation, loss of parents or caregivers, and economic hardship has all played a huge role in absences. 

Venice’s administration is trying to do the right thing, but going about it the wrong way. Experts say the best way to approach chronic absences is with compassion and understanding, ensuring that students feel safe, connected, and supported on campus. However, the creation of the “Senior Non-Participation List” lacks that empathy, punishing seniors for absences that are most likely out of their control.

Not only does this approach lack empathy, it will be ineffective. Seniors will continue to be absent for valid reasons. Personally, with the stress of upcoming college decisions, I may need to take a day off for my mental health. Or, for the sake of my academic future, I may need to be absent to visit these colleges. 

Instead of basing the “Senior Non-Participation List” off of absences and tardies, maybe it should be determined by grades and behavioral habits. At least then, students will have a little more control in the situation. 

And instead of putting time and effort into creating this convoluted, complicated appeals process, maybe the administration should focus on identifying students who have an exorbitant amount of absences and tardies and finding ways to support them. 

Either way, the Class of 2023 will do what’s necessary to attend these once-in-a-lifetime high school events. Because, hey, if we can persevere through an unprecedented global pandemic smack-dab in the middle of our high school years, we can get through anything.