Report Title:

Truancy

 

Description:

Strengthens truancy laws; establishes community truancy boards.

THE SENATE

S.B. NO.

2920

TWENTY-FIRST LEGISLATURE, 2002

 

STATE OF HAWAII

 


 

A BILL FOR AN ACT

 

relating to school attendance.

 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:

SECTION 1. Chapter 302A, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding six new sections to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

"§302A-A Truancy; departmental proceedings. (a) If a child required to attend school under section 302A-1132 fails to attend public school without valid justification, the public school in which the child is enrolled shall:

(1) Inform the child’s custodial parent, parents, or guardian by a notice in writing or by telephone whenever the child has failed to attend school after one unexcused absence within any month during the current school year and the potential consequences of additional unexcused absences;

(2) Schedule a conference or conferences with the custodial parent, parents, or guardian and child at a time reasonably convenient for all persons included for the purpose of analyzing the causes of the child’s absences after two unexcused absences within any month during the current school year; provided that if a regularly scheduled parent-teacher conference day is to take place within thirty days of the second unexcused absence, then the school may schedule this conference on that day; and

(3) Take steps to eliminate or reduce the child's absences, which may include:

(A) Adjusting the child's school program or course assignment;

(B) Providing more individualized or remedial instruction;

(C) Providing appropriate vocational courses or work experience;

(D) Referring the child to a community truancy board;

(E) Requiring the child to attend an alternative school or program; and

(F) Assisting the parent or child to obtain supplementary services that might eliminate or ameliorate the cause or causes for the absence from school.

(b) If the child's parent does not attend the scheduled conference, the conference may be conducted with the student and school official; provided that the parent is notified of the steps to be taken to eliminate or reduce the child's absence.

(c) The department shall not later than the fifth unexcused absence in a month:

(1) Enter into an agreement with a student and parent that establishes school attendance requirements;

(2) Refer a student to a community truancy board, which shall enter into an agreement with the student and parent that establishes school attendance requirements, and make other appropriate actions to reduce the child’s absences; or

(3) File a petition with the family court.

§302A-B Family court petition. (a) If a child is required to attend school under section 302A-1132 and if the actions taken by a school district under section 302A-A are not successful in substantially reducing an enrolled student's absences from public school, then not later than the seventh unexcused absence by a child within any month during the current school year or not later than the tenth unexcused absence during the current school year, the department shall file a petition and supporting affidavit for a civil action with family court alleging a violation of section 302A-1132 by the parent, child, or parent and child. Except as provided in this section, no additional documents need be filed with the petition.

(b) If the department fails to file a petition with the family court, the parent of a child with five or more unexcused absences in any month during the current school year or upon the tenth unexcused absence during the current school year may file a petition with family court alleging a violation of section 302A-1132.

(c) Petitions filed under this section may be served by certified mail, return receipt requested. If such service is unsuccessful, or the return receipt is not signed by the addressee, personal service shall be required.

(d) A petition for a civil action shall consist of a written notification to family court alleging that:

(1) The child has unexcused absences during the current school year;

(2) Actions taken by the department have not been successful in substantially reducing the child’s absences from school; and

(3) Court intervention and supervision are necessary to assist the school district or parent to reduce the child’s absences from school.

(e) The petition shall:

(1) Set forth the name, age, school, and residence of the child and names and residence of the child's parents; and

(2) Set forth the facts that support the allegations made, the relief requested, and information about what the court might order.

§302A-C Family court; consideration of petition. (a) When a petition is filed, the family court may schedule a hearing at which the family court shall consider the petition, or refer the case to a community truancy board established pursuant to section 302A-E, if the family court determines that such a referral would substantially reduce the child's unexcused absences.

(b) If a referral is made to a community truancy board, the community truancy board shall meet with the child, a parent, and the school representative, and enter into an agreement with the petitioner and respondent regarding expectations and any actions necessary to address the child's truancy within thirty days of the referral.

If the child is under eight years of age, the child shall not be required to attend the meeting and the agreement under this subsection shall be between the community truancy board, department, and child's parent or parents. The agreement shall be presented to the family court for its approval.

(c) The family court shall approve the agreement by order or schedule a hearing. The court, if the department and community truancy board agree, may permit the community truancy board to provide continued supervision over the student, or parent of a child under eight years of age, and report on compliance with the order. If the community truancy board fails to reach an agreement, the community truancy board shall return the case to the family court for a hearing. A hearing shall not be required if other actions by the family court would substantially reduce the child's unexcused absences. When a hearing is held, the family court shall notify:

(1) The child, the parent of the child, and the department of the hearing; and

(2) The parent and the child of their rights to present evidence at the hearing and of the options and rights available under sections 302A-A to 302A-F.

(d) The family court may require the attendance of the child, if eight years old or older, the parents, and a representative of the department at any hearing on a petition. The department shall be responsible for determining who shall represent the department at hearings on a petition filed. The family court may permit the first hearing to be held without requiring that either party be represented by legal counsel, and to be held without a guardian ad litem for the child. At the request of the department, the family court shall permit a department representative who is not an attorney to represent the department at any future hearings.

(e) If the allegations in the petition are established by preponderance of the evidence, the family court shall grant the petition and enter an order assuming jurisdiction to intervene for the period of time determined by family court, after considering the facts alleged in the petition and the circumstances of the child, to most likely cause the child to return to and remain in school while the child is subject to this section. In no case may the order expire before the end of the school year in which it is entered. If the family court assumes jurisdiction, the department shall regularly report to family court any additional unexcused absences by the child.

(f) Community truancy boards and the family court shall coordinate, to the extent possible, proceedings and actions pertaining to the petitions of children who are subject to truancy, at-risk, and in need of supportive services.

(g) The family court may order a child subject to a petition; provided that there is space available for the child, to:

(1) Attend the child's current school;

(2) Attend another public school;

(3) Attend an alternative education program;

(4) Attend a job skill center;

(5) Attend a dropout prevention program;

(6) Attend a new century charter school;

(7) Attend another public educational program;

(8) Be referred to a community truancy board, if available; or

(9) Submit to testing for the use of controlled substances or alcohol based on a determination that such testing is:

(A) Appropriate to the circumstances and behavior of the child; and

(B) Will facilitate the child's compliance with this section.

§302A-D Compliance with family court order. (a) If the child fails to comply with the court order, the court may order the child to be subject to detention, or may impose alternatives to detention such as meaningful community service. Detention ordered under this section shall not be for a period greater than that permitted pursuant to a civil contempt proceeding against a child.

(b) Any parent violating any of the provisions of sections 302A-A to 302A-C shall be fined not more than $25 for each day of unexcused absence from school. It shall be a defense for a parent charged with violating this section to show that:

(1) The parent exercised reasonable diligence in attempting to cause a child in the parent's custody to attend school; or

(2) That the department, chief of police, or police officers did not perform their duties as required in section 302A-1136.

The family court may order the parent or parents to provide meaningful community service instead of imposing a fine, or suspend any fine or meaningful community service imposed pursuant to this section upon the condition that the parent or parents participate with the school and the child in a supervised plan for the child’s attendance at school, or attend a conference or conferences scheduled by a school for the purpose of analyzing the causes of a child’s absence.

(c) If a child continues to be truant after entering into a court-approved order with the truancy board under section 302A-C(g), the family court shall find the child in contempt of court and may:

(1) Order the child to be subject to detention, as provided in subsection (a); or

(2) Impose alternatives to detention such as meaningful community service.

Failure by a child to comply with an order issued under this subsection may not subject a child to detention for a period greater than that permitted under a civil contempt proceeding against a child.

(d) Section 302A-C(g) and subsections(a) and (b) shall not apply to a six or seven year-old child required to attend school under section 302A-1132.

§302A-E Community truancy boards; establishment. (a) The family court may:

(1) Establish and operate community truancy boards;

(2) Enter into an agreement with the department for the department to estab1ish and operate a community truancy board under the jurisdiction of family court; or

(3) Use other existing entities as a community truancy board; provided that the other existing entity agrees to be used as a community truancy board.

The community truancy board shall be composed of members of the local community in which the child attends school.

(b) The duties of a community truancy board shall include, but not be limited to, recommending methods for improving school attendance such as:

(1) Assisting the parent or the child to obtain supportive services that might eliminate or ameliorate the causes of the absences; and

(2) Suggesting to the department that the child attend the child's current school, another public school, alternative education program, a job skill center, a dropout prevention program, a new century charter school, or another public educational program.

§302A-F Alternative programs and services for truant, at-risk, and expelled students; grants. (a) The superintendent may provide, to the extent that funds are available, start-up grants for alternative programs and services that provide instruction and learning for truant, at-risk, and expelled students. Each grant application shall contain:

(1) Proposed performance indicators;

(2) An evaluation plan to measure the success of the program;

(3) Its impact on improved student learning; and

(4) The applicant’s plan for maintaining the program and services after the grant period.

(b) If funds are appropriated by the legislature for this specific purpose, the superintendent shall:

(1) Evaluate the effectiveness of the petition process and community truancy boards in reducing truancy;

(2) Determine whether students who do return to school after being subject to court action:

(A) Create disruptions for other students in the school; or

(B) Establish patterns of improved attendance, and successfully complete their education program; and

(3) Determine the costs imposed by the petition process and other truancy-related procedural requirements."

SECTION 2. Section 302A-101, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding two new definitions to be appropriately inserted and to read as follows:

""Community truancy board" means a board composed of members of the local community in which the child attends school established under section 302A-E.

"Unexcused absence" means that a child has failed to:

(1) Attend the majority of hours or periods in an average school day or has failed to comply with a more restrictive department policy; and

(2) Meet the department's policy for excused absences."

SECTION 3. Section 302A-1132, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended to read as follows:

"[[]§302A-1132[]] Attendance compulsory; exceptions. (a) Unless excluded from school or excepted from attendance, all children who will have arrived at the age of at least six years, and who will not have arrived at the age of eighteen years, by January 1 of any school year, shall attend either a public or private school for, and during, the school year, and any parent, guardian, or other person having the responsibility for, or care of, a child whose attendance at school is obligatory shall send the child to either a public or private school. Attendance at a public or private school shall not be compulsory in the following cases:

(1) Where the child is physically or mentally unable to attend school (deafness and blindness excepted), of which fact the certificate of a duly licensed physician shall be sufficient evidence;

(2) Where the child, who has reached the fifteenth anniversary of birth, is suitably employed and has been excused from school attendance by the superintendent or the superintendent's authorized representative, or by a family court judge;

(3) Where, upon investigation by the family court, it has been shown that for any other reason the child may properly remain away from school;

(4) Where the child has graduated from high school; or

(5) Where the child is enrolled in an appropriate alternative educational program as approved by the superintendent or the superintendent's authorized representative in accordance with the plans and policies of the department, or notification of intent to home school has been submitted to the principal of the public school that the child would otherwise be required to attend in accordance with department rules adopted to achieve this result[; or]

[(6) Where:

(A) The child has attained the age of sixteen years;

(B) The principal has determined that:

(i) The child has engaged in behavior which is disruptive to other students, teachers, or staff; or

(ii) The child's non-attendance is chronic and has become a significant factor that hinders the child's learning; and

(C) The principal of the child's school, and the child's teacher or counselor, in consultation with the child and the child's parent, guardian, or other adult having legal responsibility for or care of the child, develops an alternative educational plan for the child. The alternative educational plan shall include a process that shall permit the child to resume school. The principal of the child's school shall file the plan made pursuant to subparagraph (C) with the child's school record. If the adult having legal responsibility for or care of the child disagrees with the plan, then the adult shall be responsible for obtaining appropriate educational services for the child].

(b) Any employer who employs a child who is excused from school attendance in accordance with subsection (a)(2) shall notify the child's school within three days upon termination of the child's employment.

SECTION 4. Section 302A-1136, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended to read as follows:

"[[]§302A-1136[]] Enforcement. The department shall be charged with the enforcement of sections 302A-1132 to [302A-1135.] 302A-F. Nothing in this section shall relieve any chief of police or police officer of the chief's or officer's responsibility for the enforcement of these sections, but their enforcement shall be subject to the plans and policies of the department."

SECTION 5. Section 302A-1135, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is repealed.

["[§302A-1135] Penalty. If any child of school age persists in absenting oneself from school, the family court judge, upon a proper petition, citation, or complaint being made by the schoolteacher or any other officer or agent of the department, or police officer, or any other person, shall cause the child, and the father or mother, guardian, or other person having charge of the child, to be summoned to appear before the judge. Upon its being proved that the person responsible for the child had not used proper diligence to enforce the child's regular attendance at school, the responsible party shall be guilty of a petty misdemeanor. This section shall not apply to any child not liable to compulsory attendance at school."] SECTION 6. Statutory material to be repealed is bracketed and stricken. New statutory material is underscored.

SECTION 7. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.

INTRODUCED BY:

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