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Tough new Harrisburg High principal takes over and immediately suspends almost half the school

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A new principal at a Pennsylvania high school is letting students know she means business.

Lisa Love suspended nearly half of the student population at Harrisburg High School where she took over in January, PennLive reported.

Five hundred students were handed suspension notices by school officials last week as part of a crackdown on truancy. Those students, out of the 1,100 enrolled at the Harrisburg school, had too many unexcused absences.

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Although many parents were able to provide documentation to cover the absences, about 100 of the students served a one-day suspension already after the notices were given.

Love said the move was prompted by the need she felt to do something “radical” to get the attention of students, parents and the community, according to PennLive. Love pointed out that she could not do anything about the school’s poor test scores and low graduation rate if students didn’t even bother to show up to class everyday.

“The problem I’ve noticed here as principal is that students are coming to school but they are not going to classes when they get here,” she said. “Many parents send their kids to school and they’re thinking they’re going to class. I needed to reach out because of the enormous number not going to class.”

Many of the students show up but hang out in the cafeteria or in the gym or congregate in the halls, Love noted.

“If you’re not in class, all you’re here to do then is to wreak havoc upon the school and disrupt the work that we are trying to do here,” Love said. “And that’s to focus on student achievement.”

According to PennLive:

Assistant Principal Keith Edmonds said they drew the line for excessive absences for students who missed at least 35 classes in the last marking period without providing proper documentation. Each marking period covers 45 days, or nine weeks. The number of missed-classes that triggered the suspension notice amounts to a week’s worth of unexcused absences, since students have seven classes each day.

The list contained 540 names, Edmonds said. Special education students were dealt with separately, but school officials then began notifying parents of the roughly 500 remaining students that they would be serving a one-day suspension.

Word quickly spread, Edmonds said, and many parents hurried to the school to provide proper documentation for absences, avoiding the suspension penalty.

While many parents were reportedly supportive of the move after a meeting with school officials, at least one questioned the logic of preventing students from attending class as a punishment for missing class.

“What does that teach them? They’ve got senior projects to do,” Shanelle Franklin, whose daughter was threatened with suspension, said according to PennLive.

“This was a hard decision for me to make, but I had to get the attention of the community to let them know that we are here. And we’re about to do some wonderful things for students and the community and we want this to be a school that everyone is proud of,” Love said.

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“And this was probably the eye opener we needed to make that happen,” she added.

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Frieda Powers

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