Student absences are considered a serious issue in the realm of education. Excessive absences can interfere with a student’s ability to keep up with his or her classes, and excessive unexcused absences can result in legal complications for the parents for their student’s truancy.
Students who are of compulsory education age (which is usually between the ages of 4 and 16) are required to attend school for the entirety of a school semester. School boards are required to construct comprehensive and complete attendance policies that establish proper record keeping procedures, as well as intervention strategies to both encourage and ensure sufficient attendance by all students to allow them to meet the state learning standards (8 NYCRR § 104.1); Appeal of a Student with a Disability, 41 Ed Dept Rep 380 (2002)). When a student fails to meet a school’s attendance standards set by their attendance policy, the student is truant.
Truancy is considered the unlawful absence, or irregular attendance by a student of compulsory education age. Districts may establish special classes, or even special schools for students who have truancy issues, and can involuntarily transfer a student to such classes or schools, if they observe the protections in place involving the involuntary transfer of students (§3214(2); Appeal of Ackert, 30 Ed Dept Rep 31 (1990)). In addition to the protections in place for involuntary transfer, districts are forbidden from suspending or expelling schools for truancy (King v. Farmer, 102 Misc.2d 610 (Sup. Ct. Westchester Cnty. 1979); Appeal of Khan, 35 Ed Dept Rep 322 (1996); Appeal of Ackert). It goes without saying that suspending a student who has issues with attendance, does not help the situation, but in fact, encourages further truancy, as now the student has a genuine reason not to attend his or her classes. However, districts have the right to enact an in-house suspension if alternative education is provided and proven adequate (Appeal of Kainz, 38 Ed Dept Rep 339 (1998); Appeal of Miller, 35 Dept Rep 451 (1996).
Habitual truancy may warrant for filing a Person In Need of Supervision (PINS) petition in family court (Family Court Act §§ 712 (a), 732). PINS petitions can be filed by parents, or guardians, but school officials, and police officers may also file for this petition of a child is deemed to be out of control. In this case, a hearing is held in family court to determine if a dispositional order is a viable solution to get the student back on track.
Furthermore, truancy is not just an issue for a student, but it is also an issue for the student’s parents. Educational neglect is a parent’s failure to ensure their child’s regular attendance in school as required by state law. Regardless if the child is missing school because of his or her own actions, or because of the actions of the parent, the failure to attend school results in an adverse effect on the child’s educational progress, or imminent danger of the adverse effect (Family Court Act § 1012(f); NYS Office of Children and Family Services, Model Police on Educational Neglect (Oct 2008).
Section 34-a(8) of the Social Services Law requires that school districts work with local social services districts in the development of written policies for the reporting and investigation of educational neglect. These policies and procedures must be reviewed by the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS). These policies and procedures, which are based upon the model practices of OCFS, and the NYS Education department, must include a process for reporting and investigating a child’s truancy, as well as a process for opportunities for a timely intervention that involves students, parents, school officials, and Child Protective Services (CPS).
This process, in turn, constructs a basis for educational neglect being reported to the Statewide Central Register for Child Abuse and Maltreatment. This, in turn, puts pressure on parents to encourage, motivate, or force their child to attend school on a regular basis. If the child still does not attend school, legal issues may arise against the parent. Heightening from a Child Protective Services issue, neglectful parents can face fines, and in some cases, jail time, depending on the severity of the neglect.
Truancy is an issue not taken lightly by the education system. It is always in a child’s best interest to be present for the entirety of the school year. Missing important days of school can result in the impairment of the student’s educational process, thereby hindering not only their educational future, but also their future career prospects. With Educational Neglect hanging over a truancy case, it is always in the both the student, and parent’s best interest ensure that the student is present throughout the entirety of the school year.
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