Student exemptions threatened by a hard flu season

Ashley Attanucci
Web Manager

Video by Austin Evans

Every winter, the United States is hit with the infamous flu season; according to a survey taken by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, this year’s flu season has been one of the worst yet, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree.

This month, Coppell High School is especially affected by the new strain of the flu that pulls students from classes and plants them in bed for the week. But for dedicated students, the flu proves a worry in more ways than one: while they must fight the threat of influenza, they simultaneously fight the threat of losing final exam exemptions.

“I hate taking final exams,” said senior Caitlin Koranda, who came to school even in the midst of the flu. “I just didn’t think I could afford to miss school anymore. Last year, I had to take my final exams and it was a lot of extra work and made me annoyed, so I vowed that I would always be exempt from then on.”

Though these students are risking their own well-being as well as others’, they find the risk well worth it, and their classmates can respect the choice.

“It happens,” said senior Srishti Goel, who is ranked in the top 10. “Sometimes we just can’t afford to miss school. There have been times where I’ve felt mildly sick where I came to one or two classes for which I really don’t want to take finals for, and then just go home for the rest of the day.”

Luckily, for students who are out of school for more than the allotted three days forced per school policy or doctor’s orders, Coppell High School provides an attendance committee offering students an appeal process. Though many students do not know of this option, when having missed multiple days of school that ruin eligibility for exemptions, a committee made up of a principal, a counselor and two teachers will meet with the student to determine whether he or she should win back exemptions.

“I understand why students feel like they need to come to class [when they are sick,] but if they are ill where they are contagious or really shouldn’t be at school, they need to stay home for their own health and for the protection of other students and teachers,” Assistant Principal Sean Bagley said. “[Exemptions] are a great motivator; my only concern is sometimes students feel like it’s the only thing they’re coming to school for. It shouldn’t be an all or nothing attitude –illness is an issue we can find a solution for.”

The requirements for exemptions this year are the same as always: a student cannot acquire more than three absences and four tardies, must maintain an 85 semester average or above, must pass TAKS to be exempt from that subject or receive a “commended” standard on all TAKS to be exempt from all classes and elective courses, with no ISS, OSS or DAEP on record.

Though many prioritize long-term academic achievement over short term health, students should reevaluate the consequences, positive and negative, of coming to school sick.