Ohio House Bill 410 was signed by the governor on January 4, 2017, and takes effect on April 6, 2017. Despite its effective date, school districts are not required to implement many of the truancy provisions until the start of the 2017–2018 school year, the majority of which are codified in section 3321.191 of the Revised Code. To assist school districts in the implementation of the new truancy laws, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) is expected to develop a model truancy policy to be completed in early July.
In response to this legislation, several school districts have asked for additional information on the details of the bill in order to comply with R.C. § 3321.191, including a timeline to implement absence intervention plans. As such, the following is a summary of the bill that organizes the new truancy provisions into categories to be more useful to districts.
Chronic truant will no longer be used.
Habitual truant refers to a child of compulsory school age who is absent from school without legitimate excuse for the following number of hours (RC 2151.011):
- 30 or more consecutive hours or
- 42 or more hours in one school month or
- 72 or more hours in a school year
Unruly child refers to a habitual truant who has not previously been adjudicated for being a habitual truant (RC 2151.022), but if based solely on being a habitual truant, court shall consider alternatives to adjudication to divert the child from the juvenile court system
Delinquent child applies to a child who violates a court order regarding the child’s prior adjudication as an unruly child for habitual truancy, but no longer includes habitual (or chronic) truant (RC 2152.02)
Beginning July 1, 2017, districts may not suspend, expel, or remove a student solely on the basis of absence without legitimate excuse. (RC 3313.668)
Districts may not carry over suspensions from one year to the next for any type of student misconduct. However, for an out-of-school suspension, participation in a community service program or an alternative consequence may be imposed during summer break for a number of hours equal to the remaining suspension. The community service or other consequence must begin during the first full weekday of summer break. Each district has the discretion to develop “an appropriate list of alternative consequences.” If the student fails to complete the community service or alternative consequence, the district may determine the next course of action; however, it may not include imposing out-of-school suspension when the next school year begins. (RC 3313.66)
Districts have discretion to allow make-up homework during suspensions. (RC 3313.66)
Excessive absences may not be punished by suspension, expulsion, or other means of prohibiting a student from attending school. (RC 3313.668, RC 3321.191)
Attendance officers shall file a complaint in juvenile court on the 61st day after implementation of an absence intervention plan if all of the following apply:
- The student has unexcused absences of 30+ consecutive hours, 42+ hours in one month, or 72+ hours in a school year
- The district has made meaningful attempts to reengage the student through the absence intervention plan or other intervention strategies and alternatives to adjudication
- The student has refused to participate in or failed to make satisfactory progress on the plan, strategies, or alternatives
If the student has absences as noted above, but the absence intervention team determines that the student has made “substantial progress” according to the plan, the attendance officer shall not file a complaint in juvenile court.
If the 61st day after implementation of an absence intervention plan falls during the summer months, the district has the discretion to allow the absence intervention team or attendance officer to extend the implementation of the plan and delay the filing of the complaint for an additional 30 days from the first day of school the next year. (RC 3321.16)
Extensive changes were made to juvenile court procedures (RC 2151, 2152), including notifying the school district and the school of attendance within 10 days if a student is adjudicated an unruly child for habitual truancy (RC 2151.354, 2152.19). This is important to school districts because districts will be required to notify ODE when a child has violated a court order regarding prior adjudication as an unruly child for habitual truancy.
Absences for a student who travels out of state for enrichment activities or extracurricular activities may be excused up to 24 hours maximum for the school year. If the student will be absent for 24 or more consecutive hours for these activities, a classroom teacher employed by the district shall accompany the student for instructional assistance. (RC 3321.041)
For purposes of driver’s license suspension, a board of education may notify a superintendent of a student’s unexcused absence of 60 or more consecutive hours or 90 or more hours in a school year. (RC 3321.13)
If a board of education has adopted a resolution stating such, the superintendent shall notify the registrar of motor vehicles and the county juvenile judge of a student’s unexcused absences of more than 60 consecutive hours in a single month or at least 90 hours in a school year. The superintendent shall also provide the parents with written notice that the student’s driver’s license, temporary permit, or opportunity to obtain such permit has been suspended and that the student and parents may have a hearing with the superintendent as scheduled. (RC 3321.13)
Absence Intervention Teams
Schools may establish their own absence intervention teams. District superintendents shall establish an absence intervention team for the district to be used by any schools that do not establish their own absence intervention teams. Membership of the absence intervention team may vary based on the needs of each student but shall include:
- a district or school representative,
- another district or school representative who knows the student, and
- the child’s parent (or guardian, custodian, etc.), and may include
- a school psychologist, counselor, social worker, or public agency representative. (RC 3321.191)
If a student becomes habitually truant within 21 days of the end of the school year, a district may assign one school official to work with the child’s parent to develop an absence intervention plan during the summer, which shall be implemented no later than 7 days before the next school year begins. Alternatively, the district may toll the summer time period and reconvene the absence intervention process on the first day of the next school year. (RC 3321.191)
ODE will develop a format for parental permission regarding absence intervention teams to ensure compliance with FERPA. (RC 3321.191)
Districts with a truancy rate of less than 5 percent are exempt from assigning habitually absent students to absence intervention teams and may develop their own district strategies; however, if their strategies fail, the attendance officer shall file a complaint within 61 days of implementation. (RC 3321.19)
Absence Intervention Plans
Each plan shall vary based on the needs of the student, but all plans shall notify the student of the attendance officer’s obligation to file a complaint 61 days after implementation of the plan if the student has refused to participate in or failed to make satisfactory progress on the plan or other alternative to adjudication. (RC 3321.191)
As part of the absence intervention plan, the district may contact juvenile court and ask to have the student informally enrolled in an alternative to adjudication. If a district chooses to do this, the district must develop a policy regarding use of and selection process for offering alternatives to adjudication. (RC 3321.191)
Districts or schools may consult or partner with public and nonprofit agencies for assistance to students and families to reduce absences. (RC 3321.191)
Timeline for Absence Intervention Teams
- Triggering event – Student surpasses the threshold for unexcused absences for habitual truancy. Districts are required to report to ODE when a student has exceeded this threshold.
- Within 7 days of the triggering event – The school or district shall select the members of an absence intervention team and shall make at least three good-faith attempts to secure parent participation on the team. (RC 3321.191) If the parent responds but is unable to participate, the district shall inform the parent of the right to appear by designee. If the parent fails to respond, the district shall (1) investigate whether the failure to respond triggers mandatory reporting to children’s services and (2) instruct the absence intervention team to develop a plan notwithstanding the absence of the parent.
- Within 10 days of the triggering event – The board of education shall assign a student who is considered a habitual truant to an absence intervention team. (RC 3321.19)
- Within 14 days after assigning a student to an absence intervention team – The team shall develop an intervention plan. (RC 3321.191)
- Within 7 days after development of the intervention plan – the district shall notify the student’s parents of the plan. (RC 3321.191)
Note: Districts are required to notify ODE when an absence intervention plan has been implemented.
Beginning 2017–2018, board policy shall include notifying parents of absences with or without legitimate excuse of 38+ hours in a month or 65+ hours in a year, within 7 days of the absence that triggered the notice (RC 3321.191). Districts are required to report this to ODE as well.
Zero-tolerance policies should no longer include “excessive truancy.”
Excessive truancy is no longer a reason for Big 8 schools to send students to alternative schools. (RC 3313.534)
Reporting to ODE
Beginning 2017–2018, districts shall report the following occurrences to ODE. (RC 3321.191)
- When notification is provided to a parent of student’s absences with or without excuse of 38+ hours in one school month or 65+ hours in a school year
- When a student is designated as a habitual truant
- When a student who has been adjudicated unruly for habitual truancy violates a court order regarding that adjudication
- When an absence intervention plan has been implemented