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Saturday should have been a school day

For parents whose children attend Suffolk Public Schools, Saturday should have been a school day. Having missed school last Wednesday because of snow — and having been alerted previously about the plan for make-up days beyond the initial four that could easily be accounted for — students were reminded on Thursday that the school week would be extended through Saturday. Instruction time is mandated by the state, and because of SOL and other testing requirements, most teachers’ lesson plans just are not flexible enough to allow for extra missed instructional days. So school officials set in motion the plan for a Saturday make-up day.

But 26 percent of parents chose to keep their children home from school on Saturday. Judging by the online comments in response to stories about the planned make-up day, some folks already had plans that included their children. Others felt their kids deserved a day off from school. And some just felt it unfair that there was so little time to prepare.

Life is all about choices. We choose our priorities, we choose our actions, we choose our attitudes. And all of those choices mix together with our genetic predispositions to determine the kind of people we are. Most students in primary and secondary schools still are too young to make those choices well. They need the guidance — and sometimes the commands — of their parents to make smart decisions that will have positive impacts on their lives.

On Saturday, 26 percent of Suffolk’s parents failed to live up to that standard. By allowing their children to stay home from school for nearly anything but sickness or emergency, they sent a long-lasting, disruptive and destructive message about the importance of education, of commitment and of submission to authority.

It’s unlikely that any of those students will fail their grade this year because of missing that one day of school. And it’s unlikely that it will cost anyone entry into the college of her choice. But those who were allowed to stay home on Saturday have had their sense of entitlement reinforced, have learned that their desires are paramount.

Both of those lessons are more likely to help produce selfish, self-involved citizens who are then more likely to produce and nurture selfish, self-involved children who will be allowed to lay out of school on the occasional day when it might conflict with their important social calendars.