H.B. NO.














rELATING TO Truancy.





     SECTION 1.  The legislature finds that studies have shown truancy to be a serious problem, with societal implications that transcend diminished student attendance rates.  Students who are truant are more likely to drop out of school, have fewer job prospects, receive lower salaries, and be unemployed.  Truancy imposes a high cost on society by consuming valuable school and court resources, promoting academic failure, and producing juvenile delinquency that often leads to adult criminal behavior.  Approximately five per cent of students across the nation drop out of school each year, and most of these students begin as truants.  In Hawaii, the average truancy rate in 2005-2006 was 1.7 per cent, or two hundred and eighty-two students, but in 2006-2007 the rate doubled to 2.4 per cent, or three hundred and ninety-five students.

     The community must be involved in preventing truancy and increasing school attendance by forging collaborative relationships among the schools, law enforcement, the judiciary, and other community members.  Because truancy is a problem that has roots at the elementary school level, early intervention is vital.  To accomplish this, a community truancy board could both act as a buffer between the students and the juvenile court system and help address the source of the truancy problem by taking advantage of the skills, expertise, and interest of the various members of local communities.  A community truancy board could use, among other things, mediation to create agreements between students, parents, and the schools that can take the place of formal court proceedings.  The agreements would be signed by all parties privy to it, and would be monitored by the school district.

     Mediation has proven to be effective against truancy.  In separate studies performed by San Francisco District Attorney Kamala D. Harris and the Ohio Commission On Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management, both found that mediation, not punitive sanctions, proved to be the most effective means to reduce student truancy rates.  In the San Francisco study, entitled "Pay Attention Now or Pay the Price Later:  How Reducing Elementary School Truancy Will Improve Public Safety and Save Public Resources," mediation helped to contribute to a twenty per cent reduction in truancy over the span of one year.  The Ohio study produced similar results, citing reductions in average number of days absent from 13.17 to 3.42 and 15.38 to 1.27 in Delaware and Ross counties, respectively, for the year that mediation was applied.

     The purpose of this Act is to task the judiciary with convening a working group to study methods to prevent or control the problem of truancy in elementary schools and to assess the feasibility of establishing and implementing a community truancy board.

     SECTION 2.  (a)  The chief justice of the supreme court shall designate a senior family court judge to convene a working group to study methods to prevent or control the problem of truancy in elementary schools.  The senior family court judge shall invite the following individuals to serve as members of the working group:

     (1)  The chief justice of the supreme court, or the chief justice's designee;

     (2)  Representatives of elementary school education providers such as public, private, and charter institutions and home schooling providers;

     (3)  Representatives from law enforcement;

     (4)  Representatives of community youth service providers such as youth mental health specialists; and

     (5)  Any other individuals whom the senior family court judge deems appropriate;

provided that the working group shall not exceed eleven members.  The working group shall elect a chairperson from among its members.

     (b)  The working group shall be administratively attached to the judiciary.

     (c)  No member of the working group shall be made subject to chapter 84, Hawaii Revised Statutes, solely because of that member's participation in the working group.

     (d)  The working group shall research and develop guidelines for establishing a community truancy board; provided that, where possible, the guidelines shall:

     (1)  Use existing systems, such as the student support system, the peer review and quality assurance processes, and the school attendance program;

     (2)  Delineate programs that are presently available, such as positive behavior support, and how those programs may be integrated into the community truancy board;

     (3)  Not preempt programs that are presently available; and

     (4)  Focus specifically on the elementary school level.

     (e)  The working group shall review how other states have implemented community truancy boards or other similar boards and determine how to effectively implement those strategies in Hawaii's unique cultural climate.

     (f)  The working group shall assess the feasibility of programs already established in Washington (Revised Code of Washington section 28A.225.025), California (California Education Code section 48325), St. Louis County, Missouri (St. Louis County Truancy Court), and Rhode Island (Rhode Island Truancy Court).

     (g)  The working group shall also:

     (1)  Define when a student becomes "chronically" or "habitually truant" and distinguish those terms from "excessive tardiness";

     (2)  Determine the membership of the community truancy board;

     (3)  Determine the situations that trigger the involvement of the community truancy board;

     (4)  Determine the scope of review of the community truancy board; and

     (5)  Set forth any other guidelines that the working group deems necessary.

     (h)  Members of the working group shall serve without compensation but shall be reimbursed for expenses, including travel expenses, necessary for the performance of their duties.

     (i)  The working group shall report its findings and recommendations, including any proposed legislation, to the legislature no later than twenty days before the convening of the regular session of 2014 and shall be dissolved on June 30, 2014.

     SECTION 3.  This Act shall take effect upon its approval.








Report Title:

Truancy Working Group; Judiciary



Establishes a working group administratively attached to the judiciary to study methods to prevent or control truancy in elementary schools, including the creation of a community truancy board.




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