Attention local parents: New law changes attendance policy for Ohio schools

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The Ohio House Bill 410 has changed the law for schools that deal with excess absenteeism.

The bill, passed in December of 2016, aims to encourage and support a preventative approach to excessive absences and truancy. Beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, several changes take effect.

Schools cannot suspend or expel students for missing too much school. Schools cannot apply any remaining part or all of a suspension to following school year, but the superintendent may require a student to participate in community service or an alternative consequence for the number of hours equal to the time left on the suspension.  Districts are also required to amend or adopt policies that outline their interventions and plan for students who miss an excessive amount of school.

In a letter sent to parents on August 14, Manchester Local School District’s Superintendent Brian Rau informed parents of changes the bill imposes for the upcoming school year.

“In order to maximize your child’s daily instruction, it is important he or she attend school regularly” writes Rau. “Students deemed “habitually truant” in any of these circumstances will be turned into the South Central Ohio Educational Service Center attendance officer.  The attendance officer is required to contact the parent regarding the date and time of a meeting set by the school’s Absence Intervention Team (AIT) that the parent is required to attend.”

Wording within the bill defines “habitual truants” as students that miss more than 30 consecutive hours, 42 or more hours in a month, or 72 or more hours in a school year.  The prior designation of “chronic truant” has been eliminated.

According to the bill, the purpose of the absence intervention team is to establish a student-centered absence intervention plan for every child who is habitually truant by identifying specific barriers and solutions to attendance. The team is cross-sector and ideally includes the participation of the student and the parent. This requirement is new and is aimed at breaking down barriers to attendance without filing criminal complaints against the student in juvenile court.

The bill also exempts schools that have a truancy rate of less than 5% from having to create intervention teams.  They are permitted to use their current methods to address absenteeism.

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