PARMA, Ohio (WJW) – After years of attendance issues primarily caused by the pandemic, the Parma City School District (PCSD) is implementing a seldom used policy across the state to suspend the drivers licenses of truant students.

“Attendance has always been a concern. The research is very clear in terms of how important it is to be in school,” PCSD Superintendent Charles Smialek said.

In the 2021-22 school year, 48% of students at PCSD were chronically absent, missing 10% of the school year.

“Last year we cut that down to about 25% in large part because COVID had really passed, but it’s still a lot of students that are missing far too much school,” Smialek said.

The new attendance policy will be used as a method of encouragement to keep kids in the classroom and away from falling behind.

“We have implemented now the ability to suspend driver’s license, or block a student’s request for a driver’s license,” he said.

If a student is truant, meaning they miss more than 15 unexcused days without a valid excuse, their license could be suspended.

“We are not focusing on students that have some type of prolonged illness, or somehow get the flu three or four times during the school year,” Smialek said. “We certainly don’t want students thinking they have to come to school when they are sick. But it’s important to know that parents then call in to excuse those absences, which unfortunately doesn’t always happen. So this is also a call to action for parents.”

The policy will operate on a semester basis. If a student loses legal driving privileges due to poor attendance, they can earn it back the following semester if their attendance improves.

“I personally think it’s overreach considering some students may use their cars to get to school,” 16-year-old Normandy High School student Nick Stokar said while applying for his temps.

Stokar is in driving school and is looking forward to earning his license, something he feels shouldn’t be potentially taken away by his school.

“It’s just not right,” he said.

Smialek said this is ultimately a move to keep students on track. 

“This is a critically important part of what they should be performing,” Smialek said. “This is an important responsibility in their life, and we want to make sure that they’re here to learn and to stay on the path to graduation.”

The district will be collecting and tracking data on how this policy impacts attendance this year.