Mr. Hansen’s Absence and Tardiness Policies

Legitimate reasons for missing class include emergencies, field trips, school-sponsored sporting events, school-sponsored retreats, and meetings with college representatives. In addition, Form VI students with a passing average may “cut” class twice per semester in accordance with school policy. Because my rule #6(B) below concerning senior cuts is so harsh, I allow a third cut for students who have maintained a passing average.

In the list below, I distinguish between emergencies and planned absences. Rules #1 through #5 are essentially a paraphrase of pages 6, 30, and 31 of the student handbook. The other rules (#6 through #14) refer to areas in which teachers set their own policies.

General School Rules (Paraphrased)

1. Emergencies (illness, funeral, unusual traffic situation, etc.): On each day that you are absent, your parents must call Ms. Spaulding at (202) 537-6412 by 8:00 a.m. For illnesses longer than a few days, a written statement from your doctor may be required. For emergency absences, there is no need to notify me, since I will receive a list from Ms. Spaulding. During your absence, please check assignments on in order to stay as up-to-date as possible.

2. Planned absences (school notification): Again, your parents must notify Ms. Spaulding by 8:00 a.m. There are a few exceptions (school sports, field trips, and Form VI cuts) for which your parents need not call Ms. Spaulding, since your teachers will already be informing her.

3. Planned absences (teacher notification): All of your teachers would appreciate it if you notify them in advance of any class periods that you are planning to miss. I have taken this one step further by requiring advance notice by e-mail of at least 48 hours (24 hours for seniors) so that I can adjust your test and quiz schedule if necessary. I will probably forget if you tell me in the hall, but e-mail guarantees that both you and I have a written record with a timestamp. Be sure to put a double underscore (__) at the beginning of your subject line so that it will catch my attention and dodge the spam filter. See #8 for additional details.

4. More information about planned absences: Medical and dental appointments should not be scheduled during school hours unless there is no other option. Family vacations during school days are discouraged and should be cleared far in advance with the Head of Upper School. Please note, even if the Head of Upper School approves of such a vacation, teachers are not required to offer make-up work or to make special accommodations for you. (The reality is that most teachers will try to be helpful, but you should keep in mind that any make-up work they offer you is a favor to you, not something they are required to do.) “Bridging over” into breaks is particularly discouraged, since St. Albans already provides ample time off, including a two-week spring break, during which your family can travel together. Form VI: You are encouraged to use the long Columbus Day weekend in October and the long first weekend of November for your college trips. Other college trips and meetings with college representatives must be reported in advance. Use Ms. Spaulding’s college trip book and her college meeting sign-up sheets.

5. Other absences: If you are absent for a mysterious/unknown reason, I will report you to the Dean of Students as being unexcused. Therefore, it is extremely important that your parents notify Ms. Spaulding. Penalties for a first offense are fairly mild (perhaps a Saturday morning work detail in addition to the point penalty described in #11 below), but repeated offenses can result in suspension or expulsion.

Policies Unique to Mr. Hansen

6. (Seniors only) Exception to policy #5 for Form VI: If you are absent for a mysterious/unknown reason, and if you still have a cut that you can use, I will apply one of your cuts. Note that under my policy, you do not actually have to notify me in advance that you are taking a cut, although advance notice is always appreciated. Please note, however, that this loosening of the rules is coupled with two important warnings:

     (A) If you are out of cuts, or if you have slipped into a failing average and no longer qualify for cuts, you will be reported as unexcused.

     (B) What if your absence later turns out to be excused, but your parents did not notify the school by 8:00 a.m. as required? In this case, I will charge you with a cut anyway. Ouch! If you are mature enough to be entrusted with taking cuts, you are mature enough to make sure that your parents notify the school in a timely fashion. If your parents leave for work before you wake up, or if you don’t have a chance to make sure that they called the school, then call Ms. Spaulding yourself and explain the situation honestly. She can record you as “possibly excused/awaiting confirmation from parents” or something like that. However, you have to do something.

        Naturally, I would make an exception to (B) in the event of a severe family emergency. However, in all other cases, you must understand what you are asking if you insist on not being charged with a cut.

        You would be saying, in effect, “Mr. Hansen, I’m absent from class today, but I won’t tell you why. I’ll let you puzzle over it for a while. Please look up my cut records and compute my class average so that you can tell if I still have the ability to take a cut. If I do, then record the cut in your gradebook and inform Ms. Spaulding that I wasn’t really unexcused since I was merely taking an automatic cut. Then, one or two days or a week later, when the mystery is finally resolved, I’d like you and Ms. Spaulding to adjust your records to show me as being excused for that day. By the way, please also undo everything connected to the cut, because I would really like to keep that cut in reserve. I realize that this involves extra work for you, all of which could have been avoided if I had made sure that my parents reported my excused absence by 8:00 on the morning in question. Thank you very much for allowing me to keep my extra cut.”

        As much as I would like to be accommodating to all of my students all of the time, there is a pedagogical issue to consider here. Sorry, but the cut will stand in a situation like this. I need to teach you to be responsible for your own schedule.

7. Make-up work: For emergency absences, my policy is a grace period of one day for each day missed. For example, you would have 3 school days to get caught up after a 3-day illness. I may grant extensions on a case-by-case basis.

8. Advance work: For any non-emergency absence, you need to do your work in advance. For example, if you go on a field trip, or if you are in Form VI and take a cut or a college trip on a certain day, then you will earn a zero for any test or quiz given on that day unless you have already made arrangements with me at least 48 hours in advance (24 hours for seniors). E-mail is the method of notification that I require, since that way we will both have a record. Be sure to put double underscore (__) at the beginning of your subject line so that it will catch my attention and dodge the spam filter. More than 48 hours’ notice is desirable, since the scheduling of a make-up test or quiz on short notice may require a nonstandard version, e.g., an oral examination. If you do not give a full 48 hours’ notice of a planned absence, or if you forget to inform me by e-mail, I will try to accommodate you, but if I cannot, you may have to take a zero. Even if there is no test or quiz on the day you are missing, you are required to turn in your homework or other assignments on time. Reason: This is a planned absence we’re talking about. It is not fair to your classmates if you get an extension. In certain circumstances, I may grant extensions, or I may accept some of the work before you leave and the rest after you return, but you should never assume that this is the case. By default, any homework, quiz, or test that you miss will be a zero.

9. Gray areas: With respect to make-ups, not all absences fall neatly into a category of “emergency” or “planned.” For example, the chorale may be asked on a Thursday to sing at a funeral service the next day. If you are in the chorale and have a test scheduled for Friday, would you have to take the test on Thursday during Math Lab, or would you be entitled to take it the following Monday? Situations like this need to be settled on a case-by-case basis. Here, requiring you to take a make-up test before or after school on Friday seems like a compromise that is fair both to you and to the other students.

10. Points that cannot be made up: Some points cannot be made up, even if you have a valid excuse. Examples include class participation bonuses, class-wide bonuses if I am late, mini-quizzes, equipment checks, and typographical errors. (I customarily award half a point to the first student to spot a minor typographical error, or 1 point if the error has some mathematical significance.) In the cases of mini-quizzes and equipment checks, I generally drop the lowest 2 or 3 scores for the quarter, which means that a few zeros will not count against you. I may make an exception if you have a long-term illness or another reason that causes you to miss a great number of classes.

11. Tardiness (unexcused): There is a penalty of 1 point for each minute of unexcused tardiness. Beware, that means that an unexcused absence for a full period equals a 50-point penalty (40 on Friday), in addition to any other disciplinary consequences that you may receive. Turnabout is fair play: If I am late to class for a non-emergency reason, then each minute or fraction counts as a bonus point for the people who are seated and ready to begin before I arrive. “Cell phone peloton pricing” applies: for example, a minute and 15 seconds counts as 2 points, and everyone who arrives in the same cluster (peloton) receives the same time. That means that you do not need to run to beat me to class, since we will both have the same recorded time. If you and I are in the same cluster, and if I am late, then you are late also, even if you slip in ahead of me. Because almost everyone will occasionally be late for unavoidable reasons, you can miss up to 10 minutes per quarter without penalty. (I accomplish this by adding a 10-point bonus for everyone each quarter.) Since there are several hundred points possible in each quarter, an occasional minute or two of tardiness will not affect your grade at all.

12. Tardiness (excused): The thing to remember is that unlike emergency absences, which can sometimes be cleared up after the fact, tardiness counts against you whenever you forget to bring a note. (Exceptions: Students coming from a class at NCS are allowed 5 extra minutes, and “A” period tardiness can be excused either with a note or with a parent phone call before 8:00.) The note must state the date and time and must be signed by a faculty member or one of your parents. If the note is for more than one student, all names must be listed on the note. Please do not ever show up late to class and ask, “Oh, should I have brought a note?” The answer is always yes, but I won’t send you out again to get your note. Go ahead and take a seat quietly, minimizing the disruption to the class, and accept your penalty points manfully.

        I reserve the right to reject a note if, in my judgment, the tardiness is unwarranted or key information is missing. Also, trying to pass a forged note or a note written on a previous day would count as an honor code offense, and believe me, you don’t want to deal with that. I take an aggressive stance about bringing cases before the Honor Council. Don’t ever ask, “Mr. Hansen, can’t you just give me a warning?” You are receiving your warning right now.

13. Traffic: Washington traffic, though slow, is usually quite predictable. I do not consider tardiness to be excused if you are stuck on, say, Wisconsin Ave. southbound, because there has been a traffic jam there every weekday morning for as long as I can remember. However, if you encounter a truly unusual traffic jam that makes you late, then bring a note signed by a parent, or have your parents call Ms. Spaulding before 8:00. If you show up late to class, the normal rules apply. To clarify, that means that if you appear without a note, and if your parents do not call Ms. Spaulding’s office by 8:00 (but they do call later in the day to explain), then your tardiness is unexcused. You are responsible for bringing a note.

14. Strategies for avoiding tardiness: We go by U.S. Naval Observatory time, which matches the two wall clocks in the refectory or the clock in Steuart 302, all of which are accurate to within a few seconds. The new clocks in Marriott Hall are usually within a minute of USNO time, but sometimes I have seen them off by several minutes. In the event of a discrepancy, we always use USNO time. As for the problem of moving between classes in less than 5 minutes, one strategy (not recommended) would be to start putting away your books and papers 2 or 3 minutes before the end of your previous class. Please don’t do this, because it is disrespectful to your teacher. However, if the class runs long, you should request a note. If the teacher habitually runs overtime, consider preparing a stack of notes reading, “Please excuse [write your name here] for being late on [date]. He left my room at [time]. Thank you.” Then simply ask your teacher to sign the note. That way, you’ll never lose any points for tardiness, and you’re actually being helpful to your teacher, since all he or she needs to do is to sign the note.

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Last updated: 09 Sep 2010