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A 'Fine' Policy?

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Students in McKinney, Tex., are learning firsthand about the adverse economic effects of "inadequate educational attendance."

In other words--if they skip school, they pay for it.

Under a new policy adopted by the school board in December, students in the Dallas suburb can be fined if they miss more than a specified number of days, or are absent without permission from their parents. Fines range up to $25 a day.

"It's really not a punishment--it's a privilege," said Carol Hunter, the district's director of personnel. "Our goal is to give students a chance to make up some work."

Texas law requires that students attend at least 80 days of school each semester, she said. If a student in McKinney attends fewer--and can provide no acceptable explanation--the policy allowing for fines takes effect.

Students already must pay to attend summer school, Ms. Hunter said; the board's new policy simply requires them to pay for the evening or Saturday makeup classes they attend during the year.

The policy is designed to discourage "out-and-out truancy," Ms. Hunter said. "Basically, we're looking at a student who has chosen to be a truant."

She said a district committee will hear any grievances that arise from the new policy and decide whether any extenuating circumstances merit exemption from a fine.

So far that hasn't been an issue. Response to the new policy generally has been positive, Ms. Hunter said, and as of late last month, no student had yet been fined.

Ms. Hunter noted that other districts in the state must find a way to pay the cost of the special makeup classes. "Some other districts are going to have to do this," she predicted.--m.n.

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