20,000 Metro Nashville students considered ‘virtual dropouts’

Local News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Thousands of Metro Nashville Public School students are considered “virtual dropouts.”

School board members have confirmed with News 2 that 20,000 students across the district were issued truancy letters for excessive absences from virtual school.

“This just makes everything so much worse,” said Shannon Thompson, a mother of three.

Two of Shannon Thompson’s children have received truancy letters, even though Thompson says her kids are always logged in.

“My son has never been absent,” Shannon Thompson said. “Like he is literally the first one to log into each and every one of his classes. His teachers will tell you.”

Instead, Thompson said connectivity issues have kept her kids from logging in.

“We switched out their laptops yesterday,” Thompson said. “My son’s laptop worked fine, but my daughter’s didn’t. So, she missed an hour and a half into school because she couldn’t get into the computer.”

Robert Thompson, an unrelated father of four, says his students have experienced the same issues. Three of his students currently attend Metro Nashville Public Schools. All of them have had to switch out laptops with the district at least twice this semester.

“My baby boy computer? Had to trade it out two months ago,” Robert Thompson said. “Just the other day, I came home and the computer is not working.”

His students, like thousands of others, also received truancy letters claiming excessive unexcused absences. The letter requires parents to attend an Attendance Review Board hearing. Failure to appear could result in truancy or educational neglect charges through juvenile court.

“It makes me anxious. It makes me angry,” Shannon Thompson explained. “It’s heartbreaking. It’s just so many emotions all rolled into one.”

In a statement released to News 2, district leaders wrote in part:

“In the event of a student being truant, the school will take all available steps to work with the student and parent to develop and implement an attendance plan to ensure the student is engaged in learning.”

— Sean Braisted, Public Information Officer

The statement went on to explain that there are four outdoor virtual learning help centers open on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Those help centers are located at Glencliff, Maplewood, Overton, and Pear-Cohn High Schools.

Robert Thompson said those locations just aren’t enough to keep up with the needs of 80,000 kids district-wide.

“Everybody doesn’t have cars. Everybody doesn’t ride the bus. Some people don’t have money period,” Robert Thompson explained. “So, what happens to that person?”

District leaders have encouraged parents and guardians to report any technical issues to school or district representatives.

News 2 digs deeper into how schools are moving forward safely for the new academic year. See how other districts around Middle Tennessee are handling everything from classroom concerns to the future of sports in our special series. Click here to see more.

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