In February 2017, all public school districts in Pennsylvania were notified that Act 138 of 2016 regarding changes to School Truancy had been signed into law. As a result, the School District of Springfield Township (SDST) is in the process of updating our procedures for attendance, excusal of absences, and School Board Policy to be compliant with these new regulations. As such, it is important that all parents/guardians of students in grades K-12 are aware of these mandates for the 2017-2018 school year. The goal is to improve school attendance for all our students and deter truancy through a comprehensive approach.
- The new law defines truancy as 3 or more unexcused absences within a school year.
- Habitual truancy is defined as 6 or more unexcused absences within a school year.
In addition, the new law mandates a process school districts must follow for reporting truancy:
- Notifying parents/guardians in writing within 10 school days of the child’s third (3rd) unexcused absence. The district must indicate that the child has been truant and include a description of the consequences if the child becomes habitually truant. The district may offer an attendance improvement plan meeting up and including the 3rd unexcused absence. If the child accrues additional absences, an attendance improvement meeting must be held.
- If a child under 15 years of age becomes habitually truant, the school is required to refer the child to a school or community-based attendance improvement program or the county Children and Youth agency. In addition, a citation may be filed against a parent of a habitually truant child in magisterial district court.
- If a child is over 15 years of age and becomes habitually truant, the school is required to refer the student to a school or community-based attendance improvement program or file a citation against the student or parent in magisterial district court.
- In addition, this law provides local judges with considerable discretion to provide appropriate penalties in individual cases which may include increased fines and/or suspension of a student’s driving license, as examples.
It is the goal of SDST to avoid these additional consequences by creating systems to improve attendance, ease parental reporting of absences, and to provide clarity on excused/unexcused absence regulations.