In an effort to change how districts handle students with excessive absences and truancy issues, the Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill 410.
In effect since last school year, the law’s most impactful change was that schools can no longer suspend or expel students for missing too much school, which many have long believed was more of a hindrance than a solution to the problem. The law also changes how absences are tracked, the language used to describe attendance issues, and how issues are reported. Prior to this year, students were labeled has chronic truants and once they missed a predetermined number of days they could be reported to the juvenile courts and their parents charged.
Schools now are required to keep track of a student’s hours in school — if a student is consistently leaving school early or arriving late, the time missed will count toward their truancy designation, even if they attended the bulk of the school day. The “chronic truant” label has been replaced with “habitual truancy,” which is defined as 30 or more consecutive hours without a legitimate excuse, 42 or more hours in one school month without a legitimate excuse, or 72 hours in a school year without a legitimate excuse.
Once a student meets the habitual level, the district must then assign the student to an absence intervention team; attempt to engage the parent in creating a plan to rectify the student’s attendance issues; and keep data for at least two months. Only then should a district file a complaint in juvenile court. The hope is that with the early intervention and support, students will be encouraged to overcome their truant habits and avoid the court system altogether.