*Names starting with J are false names to protect the anonymous sources
It was a sunny Friday morning when she thought to herself, I shouldn’t be at school right now. I could be doing so many other things. So she and her friend spontaneously decided to get some Korean food, leaving all worries of school behind. They called their parents, saying they weren’t feeling well because of the smoke from the Napa Valley fire.
Skipping school to get Korean food is not a frequent occurrence for Janet, but she has skipped school “just because.”
“It’s never because I’m sick,” Janet said. “Certain days … I feel like I should be taking a mental break from school … and that’s when I say, I’m just not going to show up today.”
From a study conducted by researchers at Get Schooled, a national nonprofit seeking to improve graduation rates and college success rates, with more than 500 teenager interviews in 25 cities in the U.S., 46 percent of the high school interviewees said they skip school at least once a week.
Senior Julien skips once or twice a week, and similar to Janet, does it to take a break from school.
“It’s for a lot of reasons,” Julien said. “Sometimes I just don’t feel like going to class. Other times, [I] just like going out with friends.”
The Get Schooled study showed that 32 percent of interviewees stated that their biggest reason for skipping was because they found school “boring.” Similarly, from a MVHS survey of 361 students, eight percent skipped because they believe they have better things to do than go to class.
Julien doesn’t see the harm in skipping school, and doesn’t feel guilty.
“Sure, [skipping class]is slightly immoral,” Julien said. “But also I think that I have a pretty good sense of what’s the best use of my own time.”
Despite ditching, senior Jenna considers herself to be a good student, as she always gets her work done. As a junior, she would be absent as often as once a week, taking time off from multiple periods over the course of a week. This year, she ditches significantly less often. Even on the days that she skips when she has tests, her goal is to get more time to prepare. Unlike other students she knows, she never skips to find out the questions and answers. Because of this, Jenna doesn’t feel guilty about ditching, but she does feel like her ditching isn’t entirely justified.
“I only skip to get more time to study, never to get answers [for]the test,” Jenna said. “So I don’t feel like I get an unfair advantage over other people just by skipping.”
Janet agrees, and she occasionally skips the day before a test or a big assignment is due and uses the extra time to study and catch up on work. Unlike Julien, Janet plans her absences and typically doesn’t skip the days of tests.
“I usually plan it so I know that that day is either going to be a work day anyway or I ask people from previous periods what they do in class,” Janet said. “But even if I do have to catch up on stuff, I don’t think it’s that hard.”
However, senior Edmund Shen finds that skipping school to study doesn’t provide any benefits. He finds it a hindrance to the rest of students in a class when one skips school, especially during test days.
“I just don’t think it’s a wise use of their time because in general it’s not as if they’re gaining more time by ditching,” Shen said. “Just borrowing time from the future doesn’t make things better; it’s just shifting over the frame in which you have to do work.”
In the two years attendance technician Joe Roan has been at MVHS, he has gotten used to students and parents calling in for absences. Roan has seen 15 to 20 cases where seniors, after turning 18, call themselves in for absences.
“They’ll say they’re sick, they’ll say they have appointments for this, for that,” Roan said. “There aren’t a lot of kids who ditch and give a reason. Most commonly they’ll just call in sick and then come right before a test and take [it].”
Though Roan can tell if students try to pass off as their parent calling in sick for them, he doesn’t believe MVHS students as a whole skip school often. However, according to a survey of 159 students, 30 percent said they skip school frequently. Furthermore, 21 percent lie to their parents in order to cut class.
“I don’t think I’ve ever told my parents that I just didn’t feel like coming to school,” Janet said. “I just tell them ‘I don’t feel well’ physically, because I feel like they wouldn’t call me in if I tell them I don’t want to be at school that day.”
Julien chooses to not tell his parents at all and rarely calls into the office to excuse his absences.
“I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Julien said. “I don’t feel that [skipping school]harmfully affected me or anyone around me and any consequences are on myself.”
Shen disagrees, believing that it is already hard to make up work from sick absences or club field trips.
“I have never considered ditching simply because I don’t think that I would end up getting more done,” Shen said. “The amount of organization that I need to do beforehand — talking to teachers — it’s a big pain.”