TRENTON – The New Jersey Assembly’s Military and Veteran Affairs Committee last month approved proposed legislation that would excuse student absences in school on Veterans Day if they are participating in activities for veterans or active duty service members.
Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak sponsored the legislation to encourage students to help honor or assist veterans and active duty members of the Armed Forces or National Guard, according to a press release. The Assembly committee approved the legislation on Thursday, March 19.
Activities could include attending a ceremony honoring a veteran or active member returning from overseas deployment, or assisting a veteran at a hospital or food shelter, according to the release.
“Attending a ceremony honoring a veteran or active duty member, or helping a veteran at a hospital or food shelter, has immeasurable educational value,” Andrzejczak said in a release. “Students can learn tremendously from our veterans and active duty members, all of whom have so much to teach about service to our nation, personal commitment or history, among the many, many possibilities.”
Andrzejczak was a sergeant in the Army and was injured during a deployment to Iraq.
The issue garnered headlines last year when the Upper Township School District received complaints connected to a new, stricter attendance policy mandated by the state. The family of then fifth-grader Lily Fisher objected to her being given an “unexcused absence” after attending a Veterans Day program.
School officials said at a Nov. 17 meeting of the Upper Township Board of Education that the new attendance policy was based on standards set by the New Jersey Department of Education, which recently revised the rules for reporting student absences for all students ages 6 to 16. The state grades districts on their annual absentee rate and that number is tied to state aid, officials said.
Service projects or representing the community at an event are excused absences, as are religious observances. A student who is sick can also receive an excused absence. Vacations can also be excused if there is a justification for it being taken during the school year, officials said.
The only other absence that the state considers excused is Take Your Child to Work Day.
Under Andrzejczak’s proposed legislation, a student seeking an excused absence on Veterans Day would have to provide documentation to their school district recording their participation in an activity.