Metro Nashville reportedly sent nearly 6,000 truancy letters to the parents of students doing virtual learning, and one school board member says that is wrong and the letters should be “thrown in the trash.”
School Board member Fran Bush made the comment to The Tennessee Star on Sunday.
MNPS sent the truancy letters because of poor student attendance in distance learning, NewsChannel 5 said. The letters threaten legal action against parents or guardians of students who have five or more unexcused absences.
NewsChannel 5 quoted the mother of a kindergarten student whose son leaves the computer during lessons. She said he gets headaches and needs to be in class with students and a teacher.
The TV station cited the state’s Compulsory Attendance Law.
Bush said she disagrees that the state law is relevant.
“It should never have been an option to threaten parents during virtual learning,” Bush said. “Virtual learning is very new to Metro Schools, and therefore there should always be … an adjustment. Parents are trying their best to support their students. It is absolutely absurd to send truancy letters to any parents who are struggling with virtual learning.”
Metro does not have a policy regarding truancy for virtual learning, Bush said. Metro should never consider attacking parents as its first reaction to such a situation.
Bush said several parents contacted her about having issues getting computers, finding hotspots and so on. MNPS has several substations around the city to help families log in, but some parents have transportation issues or have to work when they might otherwise visit those centers.
“I am appalled we would even think about sending out any kind of truancy letter,” she said. “I think it’s the most insulting, non-compassionate thing. We should be thinking about how we can get back in the classroom safely” like surrounding counties.
She said MNPS needs to think outside the box.
“We are a reactive district and not a proactive district,” Bush said. When the district launches a plan, “We don’t think about what’s next. We think about getting it out there and things fall apart.”
Bush said her message to parents is to not let the letters scare them. They should write “return to sender” on the letters and mail them back. She has another suggestion too, she said.
“These truancy letters should be thrown in the trash because we need to do a better job supporting parents.”
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.