As parents of school-age children, we know that children need to attend school on a consistent basis to facilitate learning and thriving. There is also a legal component to a child’s school attendance of which parents should understand the process, procedure, and rules. The following will lay out and explain truancy and the rules surrounding it in effort to provide parents, guardians, and caregivers a better understanding of the requirements and procedure.
Pursuant to Ohio Revised Code §2151.011 (B)(18), a “habitual truant” is any child of compulsory school age who is absent without legitimate excuse for (1) 30 or more consecutive hours, (2) 42 or more hours in one school month, or (3) 72 or more hours in a school year. Once a student reaches one of these thresholds, the school is legally required to work with the student and their family in effort to rectify the reasons for the absences.
At the outset, it should be noted that a school cannot suspend or expel a student solely on the basis of habitual truancy. Moreover, a school cannot file truancy charges prior to implementing an Absence Intervention Plan. These two facts are meant to hopefully put a parent or guardian’s mind at ease that simply because a student has enough absences to meet the truancy threshold, it does not mean that the student will immediately face charges in juvenile court.
Absence Intervention: Initial Requirements and Timeline
As a matter of procedure, Ohio law requires that before truancy charges are filed, a school must work with the student and their family to address the reason(s) for the absences. Additionally, the Absence Intervention Team, which includes the student, family, and school staff, must create an Absence Intervention Plan (“AIP”). The team develops a student-centered AIP that will help identify specific barriers and solutions to attendance. In terms of initial steps following the triggering absence, Ohio law requires that the school meet several deadlines. Within seven days of the triggering absence, the school must create an Absence Intervention Team and make three meaningful attempts to obtain the participation of the student’s parent or guardian. Within ten calendar days of the triggering absence, the student must be assigned to their Absence Intervention Team. Within 14 days of the team’s creation, the team must develop the student’s AIP. Following the creation of the AIP, the school district has seven calendar days to make reasonable efforts to provide written notification of the AIP to the parent or guardian. The student then has 60 calendar days to participate and make satisfactory progress on the plan.
Filing Truancy Charges1
If the student does not participate or make satisfactory progress on the plan, the attendance officer must file a complaint in juvenile court against the student on the 61st calendar day after the implementation of the AIP. Whether there has been satisfactory participation or progress on the part of the student is determined by the Absence Intervention Team. Generally, filing charges is a last resort for the school district. However, once the 61st day is reached and there has been insufficient improvement, the attendance officer has no choice and is legally required to file a truancy complaint.
Although the general time frame is 61 calendar days, if a student is absent without a legitimate excuse for 30 or more consecutive hours or 42 or more hours in one month, the district attendance officer is required to file a truancy complaint. This rule does not apply, however, if the team has found that the student has made sufficient and substantial progress on the AIP. Thus, this rule has more flexibility than the 61st day rule.
What happens when charges are filed?
Once truancy charges are filed, the parent or guardian will receive a summons in the mail identifying the charge as well as an initial court date. Depending upon the county, the case may get sent directly to a diversion program if the student is a first-time offender. If the student is sent to diversion, the student and the parent or guardian will meet and work with a diversion officer to identify the barriers to attendance as well as create a goal sheet to focus on improving attendance. The benefit of diversion is that if a student successfully completes their goals, the charge will be removed from their record. If the child goes to court on these charges, the possible consequences can include probation, community service, court-ordered counseling, loss of a driver’s license, and fines.
Franklin County: Truancy Intervention Prevention Plan (TIPP)
Franklin County Juvenile Court currently has a grant-funded Truancy Intervention and Prevention Program (TIPP) which has the goal of preventing truancy even before the need for an AIP. TIPP Truancy Officers partner with participating local school districts to enforce attendance laws and also work with students in a school setting to monitor attendance. This program is one more way to hopefully prevent students getting to the point of habitual truancy that several local school districts, including, Canal Winchester Local Schools, Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools, Groveport Madison Schools, Hilliard City Schools, New Albany-Plain Local Schools, Reynoldsburg City Schools, South-Western City School District, are utilizing.
The prospect of truancy charges being filed against your child is a scary and unnerving place to find oneself as a parent or guardian. It is important to understand what a school district is required to do prior to filing such charges, but also when they are required to file such charges. It is best to maintain open communication with the school district during the AIP process in order to help support the attendance of the student and hopefully avoid ending up in juvenile court.
Authored by Amy Solaro, Esq. of Albeit Weiker, LLP
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