Pennsylvania father Michael Rossi took his two children, Jack and Victoria, out of school for three days for a family trip to Boston while he ran the Boston Marathon. After the family returned home, they were informed by their school that their children's absences will be treated as "unexcused," and that an additional unexcused absence will result in a criminal complaint against the family for truancy.
Rossi responded to this ridiculousness with the following letter, which has since gone viral and has been shared over 25,000 times on Facebook:
So we received this letter from the kids' school today. Here's my response. What do you think?
Dear Madam Principal,
While I appreciate your concern for our children's education, I can promise you they learned as much in the five days we were in Boston as they would in an entire year in school.
Our children had a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that can't be duplicated in a classroom or read in a book.
In the 3 days of school they missed (which consisted of standardized testing that they could take any time) they learned about dedication, commitment, love, perseverance, overcoming adversity, civic pride, patriotism, American history culinary arts and physical education.
They watched their father overcome, [sic] injury, bad weather, the death of a loved one and many other obstacles to achieve an important personal goal.
They also experienced first-hand the love and support of thousands of others cheering on people with a common goal.
At the marathon, they watched blind runners, runners with prosthetic limbs and debilitating diseases and people running to raise money for great causes run in the most prestigious and historic marathon in the world.
They also paid tribute to the victims of a senseless act of terrorism and learned that no matter what evil may occur, terrorists can not deter the American spirit.
These are things they won't ever truly learn in the classroom.
In addition our children walked the Freedom Trail, visited the site of the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre and the graves of several signers of the Declaration of Independence.
These are things they WILL learn in school a year or more from now. So in actuality our children are ahead of the game.
They also visited an aquarium, sampled great cuisine and spent many hours of physical activity walking and swimming.
We appreciate the efforts of the wonderful teachers and staff and cherish the education they are receiving at Rydal Elementary School. We truly love our school.
But I wouldn't hesitate to pull them out of school again for an experience like the one they had this past week.
Thank you for your time.
Good for him. While the attendance policies may be well-intentioned, there's a big difference between missing a few days of school for a family trip and being a truant causing trouble. It's fairly easy to confirm that the Rossi family was in Boston, and it's also pretty easy to argue that this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip for the family. According to Rossi, school officials have known about the planned trip since the fall.
Zero-tolerance policies are rarely a smart decision. From the honors student kicked out over accidentally bringing a pocketknife to school, to the 11-year-old student suspended for a year for possessing a plant someone thought was a marijuana leaf but in fact was not, to the piano prodigy labeled a truant by D.C. public schools for missing school for piano competitions, these policies are decidedly anti-child and do more to disrupt the educational process than any action taken by the students.
Kudos to Rossi for speaking up against this ridiculous policy. When I was the same age as Rossi's children, I missed a full week of school for a family trip to Florida so my mother, brother, and I could visit my merchant marine father on his ship and see what he actually did for a living. While I missed out on a few lessons regarding fractions, I don't think many other nine-year-olds could say they had visited a Navy base, toured an aircraft carrier, sat in the bridge of a container ship, and learned how an engine room works while on a family vacation. Learning does not have to occur in the classroom. The Rossis are clearly caring and devoted people, not the parents of truants.