Thanks to the hard work and dedication of PFF grantee partner Hearing Youth Voices (HYV), the New London Board of Education recently voted to enact a new district-wide attendance policy. The new policy emphasizes supports and interventions when students are absent instead of punitive responses which can push students out of school. In addition to the new policy, the district has also enacted new procedures allowing students dealing with absence-related credit loss to appeal the decision and recover lost credits.

This victory is the result of a two year campaign led by HYV youth leaders through their “We Want to Graduate” Campaign. In 2013, the group conducted a survey that revealed the widespread impact of absence related credit loss and found significant disparities in how it affects students in New London. According to the survey:

  • ● 42% of high school students at both New London High School and the Science and Tech Magnet school had lost credit
  • ● Of those, 67% responded that they lost credit due to absences (which means they passed the class but did not get credit because they were absent too many times)
  • ● 67% of white students said they were able to recover lost credit while only 40% of Black students and 49% of Latino students were able to
  • ● Only 40% of Black students and 38% of Latino students were warned before they lost credit while 60% of white students responded that they were warned
  • ● Overall, 87% of students responded that losing credits negatively affected their motivation to go to school

Just before the vote was taken, Dimitry Exceus, HYV youth leader, spoke to the importance of enacting concrete policy change around these issues. “For a couple years now, myself and many other youth have been working towards turning our dream into a reality,” Dimitry said, “We have gotten many promises from those in power, but that’s not enough because promises are not policies. Tonight let’s turn these promises into policy.” After two years of persistent organizing, HYV leaders saw their efforts result in real, concrete change in their school district. Their victory is a testament to what’s possible when we invest in and support youth as leaders of social change. We look forward to seeing the work of the “We Want To Graduate” Campaign continue in New London.