Ohio House passes bipartisan truancy reform legislation

Bill aims to address root causes of truancy in coordination with schools, parents

By R-H Staff

COLUMBUS — State Representatives Jeff Rezabek and Bill Hayes last week applauded the Ohio House for passing legislation they jointly sponsored that makes sweeping reforms to truancy law in Ohio schools.

During a press conference on Wednedsay, May 4, the representatives discussed House Bill 410, prior to its passage on the House floor. Reps. Rezabek and Hayes worked in coordination with Ohio school superintendents, parents, and judges to champion the bill’s passage through the House Education Committee.

The bill implements uniformity among districts when dealing with truancy, encourages earlier intervention if a student is habitually missing school, gives districts more tools to address the root cause of truancy, and works to avoid criminalization that occurs as a result of truancy.

Provisions in the bill include:

• Providing for earlier notice to parents that the child is missing school

• Requiring schools to form an intervention team that includes the parent

• Giving broad discretion to schools in the formation of a plan to get the child back in school so that they can address the underlying cause of truancy

• Offering courts and schools the ability to utilize multiple diversionary programs prior to the court considering a complaint

• Ensuring that no child will be adjudicated as delinquent solely on the basis of being truant.

Additionally, the bill works to increase truancy data, which will be helpful in further solving the underlying causes of this issue. Courts and schools would be required to report data at each step of the process, allowing for them to review intervention strategies.

Rep. Rezabek has first-hand experience with this issue through his work as a juvenile attorney.

“I am very proud of this piece of legislation as it is the product of much collaboration between all of the interested parties,” Rep. Rezabek said. “From judges to teachers, juvenile justice advocates to prosecutors, everyone has been involved in this process and has played a role in putting forth the bill that was voted on today. In my own experience with helping truant children, this legislation expedites the process, allows for a better approach in overcoming the barriers causing truancy, and most importantly, decriminalizes truancy.”

“House Bill 410 attempts to get to the root of individual students’ causes for truancy and deal with it early and effectively,” said Rep. Hayes.

Franklin County Prosecutor, Ron O’Brien, spoke in support of the bill during today’s press conference.

“This house bill will work due to the collaboration of all interested and affected parties to get it right for our children and prevent truancy at the school level rather than sending them to court for adjudication,” O’Brien said.

The press conference also included Judge David Hejmanowski from the Delaware County Probate and Juvenile Court and Judge Dana Preisse from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Division of Domestic Relations and Juvenile Branch, as well as representatives from Columbus City Schools.

The bill will now go to the Senate for further consideration.

Bill aims to address root causes of truancy in coordination with schools, parents

By R-H Staff