BRENTWOOD -- A self-described student advocate has persuaded Brentwood Union School District to adopt a uniform attendance guideline that's intended to help parents decide when to keep their child home.
Boyer August, a retired high school teacher and the founder of a nonprofit dedicated to championing students' educational rights, had been prodding the district for months after noticing last summer that four of its schools used differing body temperatures as a litmus test to determine whether a child was running a fever.
Until now, the district has left it up to each school to formulate protocols on this aspect of attendance.
Although most of Brentwood Union's 11 schools didn't specify a temperature, August discovered that Edna Hill Middle School had set 102 degrees as the point at which a student should stay home.
Elementary schools Mary Casey Black and Pioneer both stipulated 101 degrees, whereas Garin Elementary used 99.2 degrees.
"As an educator and as a parent, I thought this is crazy, this is dangerous, absurd," August said.
The high threshold that Edna Hill youngsters were supposed to meet before their absence was considered legitimate seemed particularly illogical to him.
"Why would anybody expect a student with a 101.8 or 101.9 temperature to go to school?" he asked rhetorically.
Superintendent Dana Eaton explains that the numbers weren't set in stone but simply guidelines intended primarily for the parents of children who are missing too many classes.
"It's for chronically absent kids," he said.
A nurse who's present at the monthly meetings where school administrators discuss problem attendance cases can steer a parent to a temperature reading as a way of helping him or her manage the child who often purports to be ill, Eaton said.
But August argued for eliminating the mention of specific temperatures in his emails to Eaton, the school board and district PTA presidents.
After all, although 98.6 degrees long has been held as the norm, body temperatures of healthy individuals often differ.
What's more, children still can be contagious even after their temperature returns to normal, August said.
The district responded in late February by updating schools' attendance policies and ensuring they are all the same: 100 degrees is now the thermometer reading that should prompt parents to keep their child at home.
In settling on this benchmark, Brentwood Union cited guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"We're just trying to balance our policy with what the research says," Eaton said.
The change hasn't satisfied August, however, who says parents are the ones who know whether their child is fit to attend classes.
Moreover, he considers the policy intrusive.
"It's like local government getting into your bedroom where your child's sick," August said. "Stay out of my bedroom. I'll get my child to school when she's healthy; you educate her when she's there."
Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.