Concert Attendance – Define "Sick"

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    Hello All,

    I teach middle school band, and I am trying to determine whether or not to give concert attendance credit for a recent major performance that a student missed because she was sick. The student’s mother called me the morning of and left a voice-mail saying the student was sick to her stomach and was not well enough to travel (we had a 70 minutes bus ride to the event) and perform. The parent, who is generally supportive, was nice and clear to the point.

    I have failed students before for missing concerts, but not for the specific situation of sickness. Allow me to cut and paste my concert attendance policy:

    “Musical performance is the culmination of the work we have done, and is a high priority in the Band Program. Therefore, attendance at concerts/performances is required. All Major events are planned well in advanced, so students/parents should mark their calendars as necessary according to the Calendar of Events (see pg. 9).

    “Extenuating circumstances, such as a death in the family or severe illness, are excused absences. The band director must approve of all absence from performance in advance. Conflicts such as sporting events, routine appointments, etc. are not considered excusable. In the case of an excused absence, the student will have the opportunity to make up the missed performance through an assignment determined between the student and teacher.”

    So, I clearly say “severe illness” only. The idea behind the policy is that this is major event, and even if you are sick, you need to push it and play anyway. But if I fail a student on these grounds, I feel like I can’t defend myself “against the parent” very well, (even though they signed the Handbook acknowledging the policy). I am trying to determine what grounds, if any, I have to tell a family that the child is “not sick enough,” do you know what I mean?

    Thank you for your thoughts.


    Riding 70 minutes on a bus to a concert with an upset stomach sounds like a recipe for disaster. If the parent is generally supportive of the program, I would definitely give the student the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t sound like anyone is trying to pull a fast one on you. Besides, pushing students to play when they are really sick doesn’t seem to be in anyone’s best interest. The student could get worse (consider a ruptured appendix at the performance) or spread germs to others. A sick student also probably won’t perform as well as usual, so forcing the student to play won’t necessarily make your group sound better, either.

    There are some judgments that we just need to leave up to parents. It sounds like this is one of them.


    Here is how you solve the problem in about 30 seconds:

    Our policy is that if a student has an “excused absence” (sick, funeral, etc etc) they must do two things: 1. Playoff all of the music for us for a grade. 2. Write a paper (usually a 5-6 page research paper on a music topic, or 2 pages on each selection we are performing). You find out pretty quickly who is actually sick….if they are really sick, they don’t typically mind doing the make up work.

    If they are “unexcused” (I did not feel like coming, had to work, etc) It’s an automatic 3 letter grade drop.

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