Posts tagged with "truant"

Understanding Truancy in Public Schools Under Connecticut Law

Over the past month, the Hartford Courant has been running a series of articles highlighting the issue of truancy in public schools. Indeed, “[a] recent study found that 48 percent of New Britain High School students are chronically absent;”[1] the proportion of truants for the kindergarten population is a staggering 29 percent.[2] Unfortunately, chronic absence by schoolchildren is a problem faced nationwide, and a recent student by Johns Hopkins University researchers shows that “[u]p to 15 percent of American children are chronically absent from school, missing at least one day in 10 and doing long-term harm to their academic progress.”[3]

Under Connecticut General Statutes § 10-198a, a “truant” is defined as any child, ages five to eighteen, “who is enrolled in a public or private school and has four unexcused absences from school in any one month or ten unexcused absences from school in any school year.” A “habitual truant” has twenty or more unexcused absences. Connecticut General Statutes § 10-200.

Last year, the Connecticut legislature enacted Public Act No. 11-136, which revises several education-related statutes. In part, it tasked the State Board of Education (SBE) to streamline measures taken by school districts in assessing, reporting, and combating truancy. By July 1, 2012, the SBE was required to adopt “uniform definitions of excused and unexcused absences” to assist school districts in identifying truant students.

On June 27, 2012, the SBE adopted definitions of excused, unexcused, and disciplinary absences, which would apply to §§ 10-198a and 10-220 (which explains the purpose of reporting truancy). SBE policy states, “A student is considered to be ‘in attendance’ if present at his/her assigned school, or an activity sponsored by the school (e.g. field trip), for at least half of the regular school day.” Thus, a student is “absent” when they are not “in attendance.”[4]

If the student’s absence is the first through ninth, to be excused it requires production of written documentation evidencing parent/guardian approval. Thereafter, an absence will be excused for the following reasons only:

  1. Student illness (verified by licensed medical professional)
  2. Student observance of a religious holiday
  3. Death in the student’s family, or other emergencies beyond their control
  4. Mandated court appearances (requires supporting documentation)
  5. Lack of transportation typically provided by a district other than that which the student attends. This requires no parental documentation.
  6. “Extraordinary educational opportunities pre-approved by district administrators and in accordance with Connecticut State Department of Education guidance.”

Absences that result from disciplinary actions (such as suspensions and expulsions) are excluded from these definitions. An unexcused absence is any that is neither excused nor disciplinary.[5]

Should you have any questions regarding truancy, school discipline, or other education law matters, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at Maya Murphy, P.C.’s Westport office located in Fairfield County at (203) 221-3100 or at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.


[1] “New Britain Schools Chief Wants Truants Fined,” by Associated Press. August 20, 2012: http://www.courant.com/community/new-britain/hc-ap-new-britain-fining-truants-0821-20120820,0,5583913.story

[2] “New Britain Schools Targeting Kindergarten Truants,” by the Associated Press. September 10, 2012: http://www.courant.com/community/new-britain/hc-new-britain-kindergarten-truants-0911-20120910,0,6088612.story

[3] “ ‘Chronically Absent’ Students Skew School Data, Study Finds, Citing Parents’ Role,” by Richard Pérez-Peña. May 17, 2012: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/education/up-to-15-percent-of-students-chronically-skip-school-johns-hopkins-finds.html

[4] “Definitions of Excused and Unexcused Absences,” by the Connecticut State Board of Education. June 27, 2012: www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/pressroom/definition_excused_unexcused_absences.pdf

[5] Id.

What You Need to Know About Your Child’s Education

One of the reasons that parents work so hard is to be able to provide a better life and a better future for their children. The bedrock of a bright future is a good education.  As a parent, it is important to understand your rights and obligations when it comes to your child’s education.

Adequate Education

As a parent, you are required to have your children enrolled in public school, unless the parent can show that the child is receiving equivalent instruction elsewhere. Under Connecticut law, the child must be “instructed in reading, writing, spelling, English grammar, geography, arithmetic and United States history and in citizenship, including a study of the town, state and federal governments.” Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-184.

School Accommodations

The local school board is required to provide school accommodations to every child, age five (5) or over and under twenty-one (21), with a free appropriate public education. This includes children with special needs. The law also provides for your child’s education to take place in the district in which you live.

Absences

The State of Connecticut has strict regulations concerning a child’s absence from school. Specifically, the State declares a child who has four (4) or more unexcused absences in a month or ten (10) or more unexcused absences during the school year as a “truant.” The designation of your child as a truant results in the activation of certain policies and procedures of the school board, including but not limited to, the notification of the parents, services and referrals to community organizations offering family support, meetings with the parents and school personnel, and possible notification to the Superior Court.  Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-198a. Habitual truants could even face arrest for failure to attend school. Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-200.

Open Choice

Connecticut law has established alternatives to traditional public school education. A parent can home school their children, as long as they comply with Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-184. A parent can choose to send their child to private school, as long as that private school conforms to Connecticut’s laws. But what many parents are not aware of is that Connecticut also offers charter, magnet and vocational schools, and the “open choice” program.  Given the number of opportunities available to parents and children in Connecticut, it is important to research the various options to find the best match for you and your child.

Discipline

The school has the right to discipline your child for breaking school rules. This could mean removing your child from the classroom, giving an in-school suspension, giving an out-of-school suspension, or even expelling your child from school. Prior to any suspension or removal, your child has the right to an informal hearing conducted by a school administrator. If the school is attempting to expel your client, there will be an expulsion hearing. You have a right to an attorney during these proceedings.

Medications

The school, prior to prescribing any medication to your child, must receive a written order from  an authorized prescriber, the written authorization of the child’s parent or guardian, and the written permission of the parent allowing communication between the prescriber and the school nurse.  Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-212a-2(b). The law also permits school districts to allow children to self-administer prescribed emergency medications, such as asthma inhalers, if the child has a verified chronic medical condition and is capable to self-administer.

Bullying

Bullying has become a pervasive problem within schools. State and Federal laws state that the school must investigate reports of bullying. The schools are obligated to meet with the children that are being bullied and whom are doing the bullying. If the schools fail to take certain steps to protect children from bullying, the school could be subject to civil liability. Therefore, if your child is being bullied, bring it to the attention of the schools so that they can attempt to remediate the situation.

Bullying is not just peer-on-peer. Recently, in Frank v. State of Connecticut Department of Children and Families, the Court upheld a hearing officer’s decision placing Mr. Frank’s name on the child abuse and neglect registry, for his bullying of one of his students. Consequently, as a parent you should be aware that bullying can take many forms, and can occur by teachers and other faculty members. 2010 Conn. Super. LEXIS 3085, J.D. of New Britain, Docket No. CV-10-6005213-S (2010).

School Records

A parent has the right to see their child’s school records. A school is required to provide you with a copy of your child records within 45 days (within 10 days if your child is receiving special education services).  The school also has to provide the records free of cost if you are unable to afford the copying fees.

The school is not allowed to share your child’s school records without your written permission. While they are allowed to share your child’s records with other teachers and staff within the school system (or outside the school system in the case of an emergency), generally, your child’s records are private.

If you have any questions regarding your child’s education, or any education law matter, contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.