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Councilmember Wells Seeks to Tighten DC Truancy Requirements PDF Print E-mail
Written by Charles Allen   
Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Councilmember Wells Seeks to Tighten DC Truancy Requirements

On Tuesday, November 17th, Councilmember Tommy Wells introduced legislation to reduce the number of days a child may be absent from school before city services inquire with parents and family. Titled the “Safe Children and Safe Neighborhoods Educational Neglect Mandatory Reporting Amendment Act of 2009”, the proposal would cut in half the number of unexcused absences allowed for a child before social services are involved.

“Truancy is often the first indicator that a youth is in crisis and headed for trouble. An early intervention through child protective services is a proven strategy to dramatically improve outcomes for at-risk youth,” stated Wells.

In Minnesota, the state required that social services become involved with a family after 7 unexcused absences per school year for a child. A year later, studies showed that over 70 percent of students, across all ages and races, experienced improved school attendance and maintained these improvements for at least 3 years after the contact with the child protection agency.

This bill overturns the recent DC Office of the State Superintendent for Education (OSSE) changes to the District’s truancy regulations related to educational neglect; allowing children between the ages of 5 and 13 to accrue 10 consecutive days, or 20 total days, of unexcused absences within a school year before a referral is made to the Child and Family Services Administration (CFSA).

Councilmember Wells added, “The changes made earlier this year were in the wrong direction. They allow a child to miss almost a month of school before red flags are raised. This bill will require a prompt referral to CFSA of any child in a potential crisis situation due to unexcused absence from school.”

Wells’ bill would require any mandatory reporter, as defined in DC law, to make a report of educational neglect to CFSA of any child between the ages of 5 and 13 who has more than 10 unexcused absences within a school year – cutting in half the amount of time a child is out of school without an excuse before authorities begin looking into the situation.

The legislation was co-introduced by Councilmember Phil Mendelson, and co-sponsored by Councilmembers Muriel Bowser, Mary Cheh, Harry Thomas, Jr., Yvette Alexander and David Catania.


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