State investigates Princeton High School attendance records
With their alma mater under investigation, some Princeton High School graduates said the practice of adjusting attendance records for students in danger of not graduating is frequent at the high school.
The New Jersey State Department of Education is investigating PHS for allegedly distorting attendance records to help students graduate on time. The school, currently under review by the State Department of Education, has submitted data on the attendance records of graduates in the classes of 2009-12 to state officials.
PHS Principal Gary Snyder and Princeton Superintendent of Schools Judy Wilson, who is involved in the review, declined to comment.
Some University students who graduated from the local school said in interviews that the school did indeed alter attendance records.
“It makes sense that this should be investigated,” Reina Gabai ’16, a graduate of Princeton High School, said. Gabai explained that while the school keeps good records of attendance, the administration allows students to “appeal” marked absences if for some reason students are in danger of graduating.
“They keep good records, they just let it slide,” Gabai said.
Fellow PHS graduate Lena Sun ’16 said many students took advantage of administrators’ leniency in altering attendance records. According to Sun, at the end of the year, students look at all the dates for which they have been marked absent and ask the attendance office to “verify” or clear those absences by giving an explanation for each. Sun said this practice was “pretty common.”
“I think when someone is in relatively good academic standing, they don’t want to prevent them from graduating,” PHS graduate Andrew Sondern ’15 said.
Sun explained that the students who did appeal absences were not those who simply skipped class without legitimate basis. In accordance with the school’s regulations, students are required to show proof of absence with a doctor’s note or other signed document. But since acquiring such documentation at the end of the year could prove difficult, the administration is generally lenient in accepting the students’ word, she said.
“They didn’t require real proof,” Sun said.
Sondern said he once saw a PHS student make a Facebook post explaining that, “one day he saw that he had 65 absences, and the next day he had zero.” He explained that the school would not prevent a student in good academic standing from graduating even if the student has missed too many classes.
Sondern said that he believes a “zero-tolerance policy” — in which students who exceeded the permissible number of missed classes would not be allowed to graduate — would not be an effective way to deal with the situation.
“I don’t really think it’s much of an issue,” Sondern said of the administration’s alleged current practice of modifying attendance records.
Four current PHS upperclassmen contacted for this article said they were not aware of the controversy, explaining that they have not witnessed any alteration of attendance records.
The state DOE will issue a public report when the investigation of Princeton High School’s attendance records concludes.