Bayonne teacher: Students are abusing religious excuses to take days off


A Bayonne teacher said that students are routinely abusing the district’s excused absence policy by using religious excuses to continually take days off, a problem a couple of board of education trustees recognized at last night’s meeting.


High School teacher Stefanie Woods brought up the subject during the public portion of the meeting.

Woods explained that the excused absences have become so excessive that she has to routinely move around assessment weeks and tests, despite the fact excused absence sheets rarely have a signature from a parent and/or guardian – in violation of state guidelines, yet are still accepted by the district.

“Excessive absences have become an epidemic,” she concluded to some applause from the crowd.

Board President Joe Broderick acknowledged that the school district is aware of the issue, while Trustee Ava Finnerty went over the statistics to back up Webb’s claim.

Finnerty said that on March 24th, Holy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter on the Christian calendar, there were 23 pages worth of students (491 in total) who requested an excused absence for religious reasons on that day.

Another Bayonne teacher, Joe Wyatt, added that students need to be held accountable for the time they miss in school and that those who used religious excuses to stay home should not be given preferential treatment.

Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /home/hcvcp/public_html/wp-content/themes/Hudson County View/includes/wp_booster/td_block.php on line 353


  1. Why would students taking the day off for religious reasons be considered excessive? Roman Catholics get the whole week off for Easter/spring break. I take it they wouldn’t want the entire school out for their holiday. This is article screams discrimination. If they don’t want 491 students to take the day off for Holy Thursday, then maybe they should make it a holiday and close the school on that day.

    • It’s people like you that make it possible for students to think it’s alright to get away with taking days off whenever they feel like it. When I was a student in school (having graduated in 1999,) if any student missed more than 9 days (less than 1%) of the entire school year (without medical documentation from a physician) then they had to repeat that year – no exceptions. Furthermore, “Roman Catholics get the whole week off for Easter/spring break” – in what imaginary world do you live in where someone can just take an entire week off from their lives (specifically their jobs) without scheduling and using their accrued vacation time, and expect to get paid for it – just because they are Roman Catholics? You clearly have no idea what a responsible person who has a strong work ethic is – and, sadly, neither do these students who regularly use what the school is just proven are FALSE religious exemptions to get out of school.

  2. I totally agree with Mrs Wood. She really cares for her students.
    I think the students that claim for a religious excuse should present a proof of their religion and that is not offensive against any religion.
    It is more offensive towards religion that students claim to be that religion for one day that they do not belong.

  3. I highly agree with the idea that students should have a parent note/ church statement. But students should not be held accountable for work they missed, because not all student that ask for a religious excuse, take it just to stay home. Many students actually go to church especially Coptics that end up having to go both morning and night for prayers on those days. I feel that rather then holding those students accountable for their work the teachers should be understanding and give them a chance to complete the work they have missed. A zero should not be the only option.
    Thank you

  4. “proof of their religion” and pray tell what would that consist of? Not everyone who practices necessarily belongs to an established house if worship. if the policy is that a student must present a note from a parent and then enforce that. under no circumstance should the school question the students beliefs or practices unless they want to risk a lawsuit. Freedom of religion is not called our first freedom for nothing.
    Courts are very protective of religion. i want taxpayer money to go towards raises for teachers not legal fees. As far as a draconian “hold them accountable, no preferential trestment for religious observance” policy, that is asking for trouble. Allowing a student to makr up missed work is not preferential treatment but “reasonable accomodation” which is a well established principle in legal jurisprudence. The state issues the list of relious holidays. end of story. it doesnt specify the degree of piety, orthodoxy, or specific form of worship a student must adhere to, to qualify to request a religios absence.

  5. I disagree with mrs. woods, yet i agree woth joe she should not have to change her assignment plans due to students not being present in class for the religious holiday Yes, students need to have a note/ parents signature on the sheet but as joe stated “your absent you need to make up the work” if the work is not made up the blame is on the student not the teacher.

  6. This is good reporting that will make the PC folks even think. Good job for exposing this stuff and putting it in the open. Halah you saying “This is article screams discrimination” is laughable on face value. The part of the article that said ” despite the fact excused absence sheets rarely have a signature from a parent and/or guardian – in violation of state guidelines” shows the district needs to tighten up because “abusing religious excuses to take days off” is the issue. Instead of reading, you cry out discrimination-ever wonder why people think that some people are not assimilating in America?