Detroit students share thoughts on attendance problems

Sep 9, 2011

It’s no secret that Detroit Public Schools have long been plagued by chronic attendance problems.

Now, the district is turning to students themselves to figure out why.

Students from a number of Detroit schools lined up at a forum Friday, to tell school officials why so many of their peers don’t come to class regularly.

Among the most common complaints: high teacher turnover, classrooms without proper supplies, a lack of parental involvement, and transportation issues.

A few students said cuts have taken away classes like art and music, and that’s taken some of the fun out of school. That prompted Emergency Manager Roy Roberts to point out that school isn’t all about having fun.

West Side Academystudent Markisha Masters says she understands that. But she thinks kids also need opportunities to be creative. “No, school is not fun and games. It’s not,” Masters says. “But, they have to understand that we need these things in our life. We do.”

Bruce Johnson, a student at Detroit’s Frederick Douglass Academy, says he gets up before 6 a-m to wait for a city bus to take him to school. But he says often the bus is running late, or just doesn’t show up—and that’s an even bigger problem in the winter

“Nine out of ten students is like, ‘Oh no, I am not about to wait here. I’m not about to get hypothermia, I’m not about to get frost bite, I’m not about to be cold waiting on this bus. So I’m leaving.’”

Johnson says the district also doesn’t provide enough bus passes for students.

Detroit schools pulled only about 43,000 kids into classrooms on the first day. The district budgeted for 65,000.