This time of year I have been hearing a great deal about truancy notices. Despite having an IEP for my daughter that even figures in additional absences, and working closely with the school staff, I received one of these beauties just in time to celebrate Easter this year. I know I am not the only one, because I hear from so many of you. There seems to be a rather wooden, mechanical approach to these letters that are fired off to parents across the nation, adding to the sorrow we endure in raising their children in need of extra care. Schools don't even go so far as to send a separate letter or make a phone call to parents of challenged children to let them know these letters are coming and should be largely ignored if arrangements have already been made for accommodating increased absences. This simple courtesy would go so far in comforting parents like us.
Yet, today's "winner" goes far beyond the average truancy letter to inhumane treatment of a child. While I realize full well that there are two sides to ever story, and the school is prevented from telling their side because of confidentiality issues, something just does not seem right in this situation. Young Rose McGrath of Battle Creek, Michigan was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012. While she has the horrific treatment for this blood cancer behind her, catching up in school has not been easy. Last week her suffering was made worse by receiving more than a truancy letter from her Catholic school, St. Joseph Middle School. She has been expelled due to number of absences and academic performance.
Again, there definitely will be a side of this story that the school cannot tell, but this outcome seems anything but Christian for a Christian school. Catholic academics are all that Rose has ever known. The grief this child is experiencing multiplies her sorrow over fighting cancer by making her feel kicked to the curb for having been unfortunate enough to have this diagnosis. No humane person would ever think it acceptable to make a child feel abandoned for having gone through cancer treatment.
Her parents state that the accommodations made for their daughter were astoundingly inadequate for a child enduring chemotherapy and all its side effects. While private schools have neither the budget nor the full access to tools that the public schools do, our Christian faith would dictate that better efforts be made to keep this child in school. Places like our friends over at The CLC Network are fully capable of helping private schools with inclusive education and special accommodations.
Stories like today's "winner" make my heart sink in that they besmirch the reputation of the Body of Christ. While we are all humans, perfectly imperfect, saved by grace alone, our faith ought to have us reaching higher, doing better, extending more compassion than the rest of the world. Otherwise, we meld into the darkness around us and push people further from Jesus. And Jesus is just who children like poor Rose need!
~ Barb Dittrich
*View the entire story: Young girl who battled cancer dismissed from school over attendance, academic performance