By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editormgreen@afro.com

District policy currently states that students who have 30 absences in a class should fail the course, yet on June 5 the D.C. Council voted 12-1 on an emergency bill allowing this rule to be overlooked for those who have met all the academic requirements needed to advance to the next grade level.

This new law comes amid major enrollment and attendance scandals in District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS).

Mayor Muriel Bowser will be the deciding factor on whether or not chronically absent students will be able to receive their high school diplomas this month. (Courtesy photo)

“Council members David Grosso (I-At Large), who chairs the Committee on Education, and Robert C. White Jr. (D-At Large), co-introduced the bill and said the mid-year attendance policies prescribed would be unfair to enforce on the students already enrolled.

According to White’s office, at the beginning of the school year, attendance policies varied by institution, thus causing DCPS to enforce a uniform policy. In some cases, the policy switch negatively affected students who had been passing tests, turning in work and abiding by the schools’ policies.

“At the beginning of this academic year, schools had individual attendance policies. And regardless of how I feel about how strict or lenient each policy was or whether I agree with it or not, students who followed their school’s policy should not be penalized,” White said in a statement to the AFRO. “It is simply not fair for DCPS to change the rules in the middle of the school year and let students suffer the consequences of DCPS’s mistake.”

The sole Council member who voted against the emergency legislation was Ward 4 Council member, Brandon T. Todd, who is an ally to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Bowser’s signature is necessary for the legislation to fully go through, causing suspected rift between the Council’s overall decision and the mayor.

Since taking office in January 2015, Bowser has never vetoed a bill.  According to The Washington Post, the mayor’s office has not responded to whether or not she would sign the legislation, but said she is looking over the terms of the bill right now.

Interim Deputy Mayor for Education Ahnna Smith, opposed the Council’s decision.

“This emergency legislation undermines efforts and sends a troubling message about the importance of school attendance, suggesting that students need a waiver to excuse absences,” Smith said in a statement according to The Washington Post. “We will continue to stress the importance of attendance because every day counts.”

The proposed bill would hold off the enforcement of the 30-day absence policy for the 2018-2019 school year.

DCPS is still determining the total number of students who would be affected by the emergency legislation.

While the bill would be beneficial for the students, some lawmakers feel a bit uneasy about both the pros and cons of the legislation.

“The optics in which you have the council stepping in and saying, ‘Well, kids can miss 30 days and it’s okay,’ ” council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) told The Washington Post. “And it’s kind of, as I said, no good decision either way.”