School Absences and Fencing Competitions – How to Work the SystemWhen your child starts competing on the regional or national level, school absences are almost inevitable. National level tournaments (NAC’s and Championships) run Friday thru Monday, and regional level tournaments, such as RYC’s, SYC’s, RJCC’s and ROC’s also often take at least one or even two school days. Add to this an additional day required for travel (especially when coming from the west coast to the east) your child’s miss school days start to quickly add up.

Schools aren’t happy about that.

Understanding the School’s Perspective

While your child’s school might be happy with your child participating in a competitive sport program, and if your child brings great results they will often garner praise from their school in assemblies and such, at the same time schools hate those unexcused absences.  You might even get a threatening letter from the school about the whole thing, and you’ll feel really bad about the whole thing.

The reason for the school’s reaction is simple – public schools are funded based on number of student days (or whatever other formula the state uses, sometimes it’s actually hours). In a laymen’s terms (and frankly in my understanding) if your child leaves the school without a proper cause the school gets penalized in its funding. No wonder they don’t like your child going to competitions on school days! All while at the same time they are happy when their students succeed athletically!

Sounds like a paradox and definitely something to take care of once your child travels to competitions.

The Solution to the School Absence Problem

The solution is quite simple – as schools need “justification” for student absence you need to provide them with one. Similar to sickness – if you call it sick you need to present a doctor’s note. This note is an “official” documentation for the school that your child had an excusable absence due to them being sick. The same thing applies with fencing – you just need to present an “official” documentation that excuses them from school for that day.

This documentation is a note from USFA on the official letterhead.

And actually the USFA makes it very easy to obtain. All you need to do is to go to the tournament organizers and ask them to provide the note for the school. I have done it many times at NAC’s – you just ask the person who mans the membership info kiosk to give you such a letter. They will ask you the name and the events/dates and give this letter to you right away – it’s really very easy.

And voila! You now have an official documented reason for a right cause for your child to miss the school.

Other tournaments might provide a similar service to you but this is something you will need to check individually at every tournament since they all are run slightly differently and by different organizers. USFA tournaments are all run the same way and by the same organization, which is USFA.

So this should put an end to your dread about missing a school day because the school says “they don’t like it”. What is usually the problem is that they don’t like the lack of documentation, and now you are ready to provide that for them.

The other BIG thing to make sure of is that of course your child gets all of their school work done in a timely manner and through some arrangements with their teachers. If they’re going to miss an assignment, talk to the teachers before you go about how they’ll need to make it up.

Good luck fencing and see you at the next tournament!

Safe Harbor Statement: 

I am not an expert by any means in the US educational system, and given that the whole system is so decentralized, and that even within the same city there might be a few school districts, there are differences in many things from school calendars to policies. 

So whatever I am writing in this post is not based on any official documentation that I read but merely on my own parental experience with my own heavily travelling fencers. So take everything from that perspective and double check that this applies to your school or school district as well. Chances are that it is, but double always check anyway.