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Ballet Talk for Dancers

What would you do...?


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I thought this would make for a good discussion topic in the forum, as I imagine many participants on BT4D have had similar run in's with academia, although probably not as harsh as this. Granted it is somewhat old news as I have decided to homeschool my daughter, as I believed that there was no way she could get educated properly with the level of bias that seems to permeate our experience with the School District. Education is deeply important to me and my family, we understand the importance and necessity of a good quality education.

I received this letter from the acting Superintendent of Schools in our District, not because my daughter was flunking out, but because she wasn't attending 85% of her classes, due to early dismissal so she could commute to ballet school. She had been in the same school district for eight years and has been dancing at the same pre/pro school during her tenure in this school district.


This is in response to your request that the District release your daughter, (dd), early from school.
Please be advised as follows.
As you know, you made this same request last year. For the reasons stated in the attached letter from Dr. XXXXXX, your request was denied. Dr. XXXXXX's letter correctly articulated the Distrct's policy and state law on this issue, and I adhere to this determination. The staff at (dd's middle school) is deeply invested in (dd's) success to achieve her academic potential, it is imperative that she attend all of her classes.
You inquired about a resolution and the consequences to your continuing to pick up (dd) early. I must reiterate that attendance is a New York State mandate, not an option. Consequently, if you continue to remove (dd) from school, you will force the District to make a referral to Child Protective Services for educational neglect. We are loath to do that, but if you continue this course of action, you will leave us no choice. As you can see, the ramifications are serious.
(Dd) is also at risk for losing academic credit. The Commissioner of Education has held that a school need not provide make-up opportunities for students who have unexcused absences. As educators, we always want students to succeed. Because of this, we do not want (dd) to miss any work. That being said, however, we do not have the option of simply disregarding our own policy and state law for any one particular student. Put simply, the law requires that (dd) be present for all of her classes. Although we do not want to be at odds with you, we will follow our legal mandate.
Please call my office if you would like to discuss this matter further o if you are aware of any material that suggest that my interpretation of the District's responsibilities is in accurate.
Superintendent of Schools
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No discussion...but I think, given the circumstances, and given my sympathy for your situation (ours has been challenging, but not nearly to that extent!), that I would have also chosen to homeschool in this scenario as well. The letter is quite severe...

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It sounds like you made a wise decision to homeschool her. I know my dd would not be happy if she had to leave school early everyday, and I can understand why the school/teachers/administration were frustrated as well. Even if my dd was making excellent grades, it would be disruptive to leave early on a daily basis. I put my dd on Independant Study for one week last year due to excessive hours of Nutcracker rehearsals, but I had permission from her teacher, the school, and had a plan prepared to get her work done during that week. But if it was something that happened all the time, I'd have to consider alternative schooling options. Dd and I have already discussed the possibility of homeschooling when she gets older if she continues with her rigorous ballet schedule, and if it was something she wanted to do.

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  • Administrators



All I can say is...move to Canada (sort of in jest). If I were in your shoes I would be annoyed that the school district was so concerned about a student with strong documented academic achievement and extracurricular activities. Where I live your request would never be referred to our version of Child Protective Services, and on the off chance a referral were made, given what you have told us here, an investigation would not be opened.


How on earth does your district deal with elite athletes, musicians, and so forth?


Now, admittedly your situation may seem extreme as the time needed away from class is significant due to the transit issues you have described. From an educator's point of view it is not ideal, especially as a student enters rotary. Not sure if that is an issue with your dd, but here it is a common type of schedule when kids are 12. This means that the students don't have the same courses at the same time each day - so from the teacher's perspective it's difficult to keep track of where your dd is.


The Superintendent (I assume that is the head of the district?) has offered to speak with you further. You may wish to take him/her up on this offer and request a meeting in person. Does your school district also have an elected board of trustees? (our public school boards do.) If so, you might want to contact the elected official for your riding... Surely there would be a way to work this out. Your dd can't be the only 12 year old in a large metropolitan area who has these scheduling issues...

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Mom2, i love Canada, especially the beer, but I am too much of a New Yorker to leave. After a similar but much less contentious episode in sixth grade 2011-12 we had an informal arrangement with the former superintendent of the school district, where unofficially they would treat my dd as Debbie Gibson a popular young artist from the 90's or Sarah Hughes an Olympic Skater and give her the latitude to pursue her ballet without getting strafed. The letter from the sixth grade is referenced in the letter quoted above, but sometime after the first harsh letter we had some kind of 38th parallel accord that wasn't documented and was informal.


When my dd was starting her second year of middle school (7th grade), this informal arrangement all went out the window with the new superintendent. The funny thing is this all came about my daughter asking innocently about her options to make up school work in free periods through her guidance counselor.


Funny enough, but this most recent letter was also addressed incorrectly to a previous address and was dated the first week in October 2012. This was despite all regular school correspondence going to the correct address. I didn't receive it until mid-December 2012. The school office called me in to the office while picking up my dd and specifically handed it directly to me. It was at this point I decided to ignore the threat.


I didn't seek an audience with the superintendent because I had figured that this wasn't going to change and since they actually hadn't called CPS yet, in all likelihood they weren't going to.

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Hi firedragon0800,


Well, whatever happens, you cannot continue to attend that school district because CPS is not a joke.


If you decide to return to organized schooling, then your best bet might be the Professional Children's School in Manhattan:




They do offer need-based financial aid.

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Well that was an ugly letter and a tough situation! I am glad that as we are entering 6th grade and only 5 classes per week at our dance studio, which is close, we will not have to deal with these issues this year.


I am frustrated that our school does not offer independent PE contracts. They used to but no longer. I would love for Dd to use that time for homework rather than waste time 'being physically active' :-/


Next year DDs dance schedule will increase and I would like to find a creative way to slide her out of PE.


It looks like your district left you with no other option, I am glad that homeschooling is working for your family!

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Glad that home schooling is an option for you, hope this year is much calmer!


I do agree that the situation before doesn't sound ideal at all for either party... I can see having tp pick up a DK early sometimes, but every day (to the tunes of missing more than 15% of school time, total) would not be ideal for anyone. Not saying I agree with this letter (I don't) but I can see their frustration too.


Noodles, we're facing that this year. I just had a discussion with the guidance counselor about my DD/PE, but since she's not scheduled for PE until Jan we should have some time to figure it out. I hope. I've heard our school district is notorious for being pretty hard about PE and I'm totally fine with PE in general but certain activities won't be suitable for my DD, plus DKs aren't exactly couch potatoes... schedule wise our middle schools let out so early that we have plenty of time to get to the studio, thank goodness!

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That letter is a threat and you may need to find out more about your rights. This group may help point you in a direction so that you can be safe:


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We have a similar state law that was passed two years ago. DD goes to a charter school which is actually pretty flexible and when she missed two weeks of school to attend ABT Young Dancer right before the law took effect, her school chalked up the days as "career education" and didn't even count her absent, but sometimes state law overrides. Anyway, our state law does not differentiate between excused and non-excused absences and a child is allotted 10 absences per semester. After 5 absences, a parent is notified. Not sure when truancy authorities are notified but it's somewhere between 5 and 10. This is for any course, so it would apply if you withdraw your child from school during the last period of the day. However, state law also allows students to petition for something called an "Individualized Education Program." I know there is some more flexibility in our high school because dance is offered throughout the state in some schools. I know of at least one high-school parent who picks their dancer up early. The dancer receives "fine arts" credit rather than PE because that is how the state classifies dance classes (you have to take so many hours per week, but most pre-pro dancers would be doing that anyway). Our state is part of the "Common Core" being adopted around the country, so that may be an option in other participating states. BTW: You don't get out of PE in my state. You do have a choice of "Physical Activity" which is more sports-oriented (like traditional PE) or a health-type class if you don't want to be as active. But you must take 2 credits of one or the other.


Bottom line: I would carefully research what the law is in your home state. I find it hard to fathom that New York's Department of Education fails to accommodate the many pre-professional athletes, dancers, actors, musicians, etc. in that state.

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Just met today with another school district close to ours, we were told we might get a better reception. The Principal of the middle school informed us that he has a sixth grader, violin prodigy that was only looking to miss the last class to study at julliard. He himself lost that fight with his superintendent. Coincidentally he was making the call later in the day. The issue is that the schools are being taken to task and heavily scrutinized for "butts in seats". NY School districts have some latitude, but for the most part since their budgets are at risk they will all be this unforgiving.

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Ummm, NY State school district for my DD and no issues with flexibility of schedule. BUT, we are only asking for early dismissal of minutes, not missing a whole class period. We have discussed the future with the school in broader terms and we have many options; from homeschooling individual subjects (like PE or language) to have a shortened school day by rearranging her schedule eliminating lunch and non-academic subjects (like music, home econ, art) so that she can leave early. Again consistent academic excellence plays a role, she is in advanced math which makes her grade level schedule more flexible and the administrators have faith that her dance will not effect her schooling.

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  • Administrators



You might want to find out what kind of statistic the bean counters in your district are looking at. Where I am, for funding purposes it is counted as DAYS of school, not classes within the school day. Could be different in your area of course. Once kids are in high school I think the half day of funding is a consideration.

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My argument when she was in the 6th grade, was that NYS Law required 85% attendance in classes, and our specific school district has the longest school days in NYS. Argument being that you can't really qualify she is not meeting NYS Standard. Basically 85% is purely subjective and open to interpretation. They made it clear to me the district interpretation rules.


We had no latitude to finagle her classes as her whole 6-8th grade class takes the same classes and same subjects at the same time. The middle school has 1200 students, it isn't small. However, they switch the core subjects around each quarter so if you have Math every am and aren't a morning learner the next quarter it will be in the afternoon. This was helpful as she wasn't missing a whole course curriculum all year. Bad as you have core classes scheduled at the end of the day. Also while her middle school has an advanced math, science and art curriculum she chose not to participate in the latter two, cause of the time constraints. She wasn't asked for math.


This school also doesn't have an honor roll, which is different than most schools. I'm not exactly sure why. Believe me two years of talking to educators, former Board Members, lawyers has yielded little result and it appears to be a problem that is growing.

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My Mom and my Step Father are both lifelong educators and were/are appalled at this result. It is never how I would imagined it, bit our children are now widgets and that is a terrible end. I think about why the humanities are dying and it's likely a result of these misguided educators. They should encourage these kids and make them part of the fabric of a school population, not purge them.

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