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Deployments are tough; finding quality time to spend with children before or after a significant time apart can be a challenge. With this essential quality time in mind, North Carolina recently signed a bill allowing schools to grant excused absences that are deployment-related.

During the summer of 2019, the North Carolina Senate introduced Bill 230, which authorizes dependents excused absences to spend time with an immediate family member who is: 1) on active duty and has been called to duty, 2) on leave from or has immediately returned from a deployment to a combat zone or combat support position or 3) is on rest and recuperation.

“We found out the legislative branch did add [the changes] into their law that a minimum of two days would be allowed,” said Donna Grady, a school liaison officer with Marine Corps Installations East-Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. “There is a catch to it all. They have to put the request in writing several weeks in advance. They can’t have any academic issues and they have to make sure there is no risk of academic failure and the parent is on leave from a combat zone or a combat supporting post."

According to Grady, the military school liaisons would get frequent calls from parents asking how long they could take their children out of school due to deployments. Grady said because there was no standard, the ultimate decision was left to the school's principal.

In the Onslow County Board of Education Policy Manual, Policy Code 4400 has also made changes to follow the standard.

According to Julie Fulton, school liaison officer with MCIEAST-MCB Camp Lejeune, schools on military bases will continue adhering to the discretion of the principal about military leave, but says they are generally lenient.

If a family is considering taking advantage of this new law, Grady said it is important to remember a few things. Arrangements should be made in writing with the school and teacher prior to the absence rather than afterwards. Students miss a great deal when they are not in school. Families should make sure that the absences are appropriate and beneficial to their overall success. If the local school administration does not identify the student as being at risk of academic failure because of unexcused absences, the student shall be given the opportunity to make up any tests or other work missed due to an excused absence for military leave.

“Try to ensure your child maintains the best attendance record possible,” said Fulton. “The fewer days they miss for other things, the more likely they will be granted additional days for the deployment.”

“The biggest advantage is there is no guessing game anymore,” said Grady. “It’s a guaranteed two days off.”