PREBLE COUNTY — A truancy bill sponsored by Rep. Jeff Rezabek went into effect in April, but applies to the upcoming school year, according to Preble County Juvenile Judge Jenifer Overmeyer.
HB 410 focuses on hours absent instead of days absent, Overmeyer explained recently.
“One of the big differences is that the new law focuses on ‘hours’ absent instead of ‘days’ absent,” Overmeyer said. “The process starts upon a ‘triggering’ event.”
Overmeyer explained, a triggering event is when a student is absent without a legitimate excuse for 30 or more consecutive hours or 42 or more hours in one school month, or 72 or more hours in a school year.
“When any of these three things occur the child’s school district has 7 days to select the members of an ‘absence intervention team’ and must make at least three good faith attempts to secure parental participation on the team,” she said.
According to Overmeyer, if the parent fails to respond, there may be a mandatory reporting to Children’s Services. Within 10 days of a triggering event, the school district must assign the student to an absence intervention team.
Within 14 days of the assignment, she explained, the team must develop an intervention plan and within 7 days of developing the plan, the district must notify the student’s parents of the plan and the obligation of the attendance officer to file a complaint in court after a certain time period.
Overmeyer said the attendance officer must file a complaint, against the child and any person who fails to cause the child’s attendance at school, in court 61 days after implementation of the plan if the student has refused to participate in or has failed to make satisfactory progress on the plan or other alternative to adjudication.
“As part of the plan the district may request that the court have the student informally enrolled in an alternative to adjudication,” she noted.
“An act that contributes to an adjudication of a child as a delinquent child because of the violation of a court order with respect to truancy is a first degree misdemeanor, and a parent, guardian or custodian of an adjudicated truant child must provide a surety bond in the sum of not more that $500 to assure the child’s attendance,” Overmeyer said.
“We already have a truancy mediation program here in the Preble County Juvenile Court,” Overmeyer said via email. “We also partially fund a program that is largely doing what these ‘absence intervention teams’ are designed to do. We found some time ago that there are many reasons that children don’t get to school and that truancy is generally not the children’s fault. The program that the Court partially funds — the Success Program — attempts to ascertain the impediments to children’s attendance and provides services to remove such barriers. Some counties are not as fortunate to have the dedicated Success workers and school systems that we do, however, and this new law is aimed at them.”
The new law also prohibits punishing excessive absences with suspension, expulsion, or other means of prohibiting a student from attending school, according to Overmeyer. If a student is suspended for another reason, the district school board is permitted to allow the student to complete any classroom assignments.
The school district’s attendance officer has to notify a student’s parent, guardian, or custodian in the event the student is absent — with or without legitimate excuse — for 38 or more hours in one school month or 65 hours in a school year, she explained.