Last week the New York Times ran an article, Skipping School for Cheap Flights? You Could be Fined In Germany. It begins as follows:
BERLIN — While airport security officials around the world check for weapons and identification before letting passengers board a plane, the police in Germany are checking for school-age children — and reporting families who take their youngsters on vacation without a teacher’s authorization.
Before school ended on Friday for the two-week spring vacation in Bavaria, officers caught 21 families allowing their children to play hooky, the police confirmed on Wednesday.
Offending parents were reported to the school and to the local authorities. In Bavaria, that could mean a fine as high as 1,000 euros, or about $1,200, in the mail that piled up during a trip.
Schools don’t want your children to miss school and especially not on the days right before a holiday.
Swiss schools (at least in my region) have the same policy.
Now, I will say that my son’s teachers have been very accommodating with us. We took my son out for two days (a Thursday and Friday) to go to his Aunt’s wedding in Turkey And a couple of years ago, he missed the last two days of school to travel to a family reunion in the United States. (The reunion started on Saturday, but I explained to the teacher that I wanted to fly out on Thursday so we had a day to recover from the flight before driving an additional three hours to the reunion.)
In both cases, we filled out the forms and the teacher approved them.
The schools my son has attended has an allotment of “Joker” days, which are days you can pull your kid out of school for whatever reason. He’s changed schools this year, so I don’t know if his new school has the same thing. His old one allowed two full days (or 4 half days).
If you want more than that, the approval process is much more difficult. People get approvals, of course, but if you don’t, you will be fined. One acquaintance was fined 2000 francs (about $2000, give or take). They appealed and got it lowered to 500 francs.
Now, I’m all in favor of kids not missing school. But never in my schooling experience, either as a student or as the parent of a student in three different school systems in two different countries, has the last day of school ever involved academic anything. There’s no reason to require a student to attend the last day of school except because we can.
It appears Germany takes this far more seriously than Switzerland does. No one at the airport checks for vacation times. Of course, our local airport serves a community with a large expat population who attend private schools that don’t have the same rules. Maybe if I presented Swiss passports at passport control they’d ask if we had permission from the school to be out.
This is one of the things I don’t like about the Swiss school system. The level of control. In our canton, homeschooling is also illegal unless the parent teaching has an education license. (Not all cantons have the same rule.) In neighboring Germany, homeschooling is flat out illegal. Period.
While homeschooling would never by my first choice for my children, I know some moms who do amazing jobs homeschooling their children. I also know some who did a totally craptastic job–but thankfully they eventually realized their own ineptitude and put their kids back in school. I do think parents should have that right.
I also think that missing a few days here and there isn’t a big deal. I like the Joker Day system.
How do your children’s schools handle absence requests for family vacations?