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Secretary just doing her job

Dear Abby: I am a high school secretary, and I'm writing about your reply to "Sick of It in Iowa" (Jan. 28), who is upset at the school secretaries for questioning her frequent absences. You were right that her medical history is of no concern to the secretary, but her attendance record is very much the business of the secretary. The principal makes the decision regarding when a student is required to bring a doctor's note with every absence.

School rules are governed by the state. You would be surprised how many parents receive citations and must go to court because of their student's poor attendance. When a student has a chronic illness, backed by a physician's statement, the school will bend over backward to work with them, ensuring they receive the best possible education.

Part of an education is teaching students that they have a responsibility to maintain a good attendance record that will precede them into college, the work force and life itself.

-- Diane S.

Dear Diane S.: Thank you for straightening me out. It appears from the mail I have received from educators and school administrative staff that my answer left something to be desired. Mea culpa. Read on:

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Dear Abby: For your information, many times school secretaries are charged with the unpleasant task of having to contact the truant officer, children's services and others in law enforcement if a child doesn't come to school and can't provide a valid doctor's excuse. The principal and superintendent do these jobs, but it is up to US to track these kids and make sure they attend school as they are supposed to do.

-- Bothered in Muncie, Ind.

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Dear Abby: I'm a school secretary. We are required by law to ask for a doctor's note when a student has accumulated more than five absences due to illness.

With today's economic mess we need to know why a student is not in school. In California, schools lose more than $30 a day when a student is not in his or her seat. So, yes, Abby, it IS "our business" to know a student's medical history.

-- Victoria in California

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