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Perfect attendance rewards are completely stupid

I agree that attendance at school is vital to a child’s education, and if many, many days are missed, then kids won’t be getting the learning experience they need. But rewards for perfect attendance are so screwed up I cannot even wrap my head around them.

My daughter was recently diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, a serious autoimmune disease that causes pain, requires harsh treatments and has the potential to be disabling. This diagnosis has taken months to get, requiring many out-of-town trips that keep her out of school for hours at a time. Two days ago, on our way back from the appointment where we finally got her diagnosis and treatment plan, she mentioned she was bummed that she was not going to get the October reward.

“October reward?” I wondered aloud. She then explained that if you have perfect attendance during the month, you get a special reward or experience early the following month. While I kept my cool at the time, my blood began to boil, and I started foaming at the mouth.

Why? Because since my kid has some incurable disease that requires weekly injections, causes terrible pain and can impact the quality of her life, she is being punished because she had to miss school. One visit can take up most of a school day, accounting for travel time, lab draws and consultations. However, her grades are fabulous, and she’s keeping up just fine.

It really, really bothers me that she’s going to miss out on a reward because she is ill. And there is a flip side that will likely impact her and everyone else. Kids who may be really tempted by each month’s reward might insist on attending school even if they have a communicable illness. The first drug we’re going to try suppresses my daughter’s immune system, making it more likely that she will get sick, and if she does, she’ll have a harder time fighting it off. In other words, other sick kids in the school will up her risk of getting sick herself.

I’ve always thought perfect attendance rewards were a sham anyway, because how can you reward someone because they never got sick — or went to school while they were ill? People get sick; people need to recover. It’s part of being human. While her school does give an attendance reward at the end of the year to kids who had at least 85 percent attendance during the year (a good solution, in my opinion), this monthly thing is total bullcrap and unfairly punishes children who are sick.

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