Foreign exchange student creates petition


Hugo Pereira, a senior foreign exchange student from Portugal, noticed that many of his classmates were refusing to stay home in lieu of going to school sick and contagious, putting many others at risk. This was mostly due to the school’s excused absence policy for final exam exemption. To be exempt, students could have no more than 3 excused absences, which caused many students to skip staying home in order to go to class.

Coughing and sniffling could be heard from every corner of the room. Some students toted boxes of tissues with them, and any time someone sneezed, the crowd around them immediately parted. Around this time of year, when sickness ran rampant throughout the school, students were still showing up sick. Many students had expressed desires for more absences in order to allow them to fully recover, but no actions for change were made.

After noticing this, Pereira decided to do something about it. Hearing several students discuss a petition but never moving to action, Pereira took matters into his own hands. He organized a petition to change the excused absence limit from three days to five days, and went around his classes to get as many students exposed to his petition as possible.

“There was a lot of talk about a petition in some of my classes, and I thought, ‘They look interested, they are going to do it! I will sign it.’ So I waited a week and they continued to talk about it but no one did anything,” Pereira said. “I thought ‘maybe this week they will start it,’ But nobody did. So, I thought, ‘Ok, I will start it!” And I made the petition.”

The petition had received a large amount of support from the students. Many thought the 3-excused absence limit wasn’t enough, since sickness tended to worsen during the second semester, and it did not allow for students to make a full recovery. Pereira had collected over 100 signatures and talked about why so many students had signed.

“Everyone notices it. Students see people in the hallways coughing and sneezing. They see the person who sits in the back sneeze without putting their hand over it, and they feel it. Everyone feels it. Everyone is relevant to this matter,” Pereira said. “If we have 5 exemption days instead of 3, students can spend more time at home to get better. I don’t think they will lose that much class time, because with applications like the Hub, we can stay pretty connected with our classes.”

Pereira felt that the exemption day change was especially important this year. More students than usual were affected, and many were gone for at least 2 days while they recovered.

“I think that because the flu this year was reported as one of the worst ever by the C.D.C, it is extra important,” Pereira said. “The flu this year was kind of a big thing since the vaccine this year was for the wrong flu strain. I think that this year it is even more important to make a change than in previous years.”

However, there was not a guarantee that the petition would get approved, despite the overwhelming support from the student body. It could prove to be a challenging task to get the school to change absence policies, no matter how many were supporting it.

“I hope it gets accepted. I do not have that high of expectations, but I like to keep my expectations low so that I do not get disappointed by things.” Pereira said. “Maybe it will get approved. I prefer a healthy environment to an environment where everyone is coughing and sneezing around me, and I know others do to. I think it is important for the school to notice this because a lot of people are interested in this. It would only benefit the school.”