New law designed to crack down on chronic absenteeism, truancy

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Indiana State leaders say too many kids and teens are missing school—and that’s having a direct impact on their education. A newly passed state law will now require the Indiana Department of Education to help local school districts develop plans to better tackle the issue.

The law states that the department of education needs to make the reduction of absenteeism in schools a “policy priority.”

“Even with both parents working, you’re responsible for your children. You brought them into this world, and they are your responsibility,” said Roxanne Wolf, a grandparent to two kids.

A report released by the Indiana University Center for Evaluation and Education Policy reveals many parents are not fulfilling their responsibilities.

Between the 2008-2009 calendar year and the 2010-2011 calendar year, 55,264 students on average missed 10 percent or more of the school year. That number does not include school days missed because of suspensions and expulsions.

The report also revealed a direct link between absenteeism, ISTEP scores and graduation rates in Indiana.

“We feel there are too many of these students out there. There are enough of the local school corporations who aren’t attacking this fully,” said Senator Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, who chairs the Senate Education Committee.

He said the law will help identify contributing factors of absenteeism and develop plans to reduce it. The Department of Education will have to provide resources and guidance to school corporations concerning evidence-based practices and effective strategies that reduce absenteeism.

“There are clearly some cases where parents need assistance in fulfilling their duties to make sure their child goes to school,” said Peter Haughan, supervisor of the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office Juvenile Division.

Haughan said they’re working with several community partners to help parents who’ve been unable to get their kids to go to school. In many of those cases, the authorities have been notified. The program gives parents access to social workers who can help them get their children to school before the situation gets worse or results in charges.

The new law focused on these same parents originally, but state leaders tweaked the measure before passing it.

A database of absentee rates has been promised to the public. A timeline has not been made available.

“I think it’s a good thing for parents to be able to check back up on schools. Any database helps them create informed decisions,” said Nate Dotzlaf, an Indianapolis parent.

Department of Education officials would not comment on their new responsibility on Tuesday.