Locked In: When You Need to Leave School

The School District of Philadelphia | Source: CBS News
The School District of Philadelphia | Source: CBS News

Imagine receiving a call that changes your world in an instant: your parents have been involved in a car crash and are now in the hospital. Everything seems to come to a halt as you desperately try to find a way to visit them.

You rush towards the main office, wishing to leave and visit your parents, only to find out that you can’t. Even after providing an email detailing the situation, evidence, and documentation, you are prevented from visiting your parents.

With no other options left, you are forced to break the rules and skip school.

This is the reality many students face in Philadelphia. Students are not allowed to leave without anyone on their emergency contact list coming to check them out in person.

Even a handwritten note won't excuse them from this policy. This poses a problem for many students who need to leave school early but can't for a wide variety of reasons, such as working parents who can't afford to leave work to get their children out of school.

A staff member at Furness High School has offered to share some stories from their personal experience that help shed some light on this issue. From their experience, they said that there are cases where students who have medical appointments for themselves or who need to accompany their parents to the hospital and translate for them but aren’t allowed to leave school.

There are also cases where students have part-time jobs and are forced to leave school to go to work on time, earning money to help support their families.

Only seniors are able to leave through a work release form. However, 9th graders do not have access to this release form and are not allowed to leave, no matter the circumstances.

The strict district-wide rule hasn’t always been here, or at least enforced. According to the anonymous worker, the rule was in response to an incident where a 5-year-old girl was abducted from a Philadelphia elementary school by a stranger who posed as a relative and signed her out of school.

However, they weren't sure whether the rule always existed but wasn't widely enforced or whether the rule was created specifically in response to the incident.

While it is understandable that the district wants to prevent such incidents, simply banning students from leaving is not an effective solution. We need to find alternative ways for students to leave school without breaking the rules and risking disciplinary punishment. 

It's important to again emphasize that this issue is not the fault of any one school itself as it is a district-wide rule. One of the assistant principals, Mrs. Burke, acknowledges that the current rules regarding early student dismissals can create barriers for some.

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According to her, it might be beneficial to try to develop creative ways to support students when a situation where a guardian is unavailable arises. 

It is worth noting that schools are not allowed to physically prevent students from leaving. The most they can do is report the situation to parents or assign detention.

Overall, the school district should reconsider its strict early dismissal policies.

While students' safety is important, there should be more flexibility and alternative solutions in place to accommodate students who need to leave school early and do not have a parent or guardian to pick them up.


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