It is essential that our state promotes the education of our children. In order to do so, we must make reforms to cohesively address “habitual truancy” across all districts. As low attendance rates become an increasingly glaring occurrence in Ohio’s school systems, the need to confront absences, without excessive punishment for the student, has become a high priority.

Given the opportunity, I think it is necessary to nurture a student’s growth in an effective and efficient manner. House Bill 410 is legislation that seeks to increase school attendance rates by taking steps to understand and focus on the cause of a student’s absence to better remedy the problem.

First and foremost, HB 410 implements uniformity among districts when dealing with truancy. The bill encourages earlier intervention, gives districts more tools to address the root cause of truancy, and works to avoid criminalization that occurs as a result of truancy. After all, it is certainly sending the wrong message to our students to prohibit them from attending school as a punishment for being absent too many times.

Consequently, no longer would a student’s attendance be measured by a specified number of missed days. The bill modifies the term “habitual truant" to mean any child who is absent without a legitimate excuse for 30 or more consecutive hours, 42 or more hours in one school month, or 72 or more hours in a school year. Additionally, the bill works to increase truancy data, which will be helpful in further solving the underlying causes of this issue. Courts and schools would be required to report data at each step of the process, allowing them to review intervention strategies.

Furthermore, schools will be required to adopt a new or amended policy to aid employees in addressing and decreasing the rates of student absences. Once the specified hours are exceeded, an intervention strategy of attempting to secure the involvement of the student's parent or guardian within seven school days is put in place.

For our students who are demonstrating habitual truancy, the issues likely do not solely stem from not wanting to go to school, but rather there are typically extenuating circumstances with their home or personal life. Working to resolve the greater issues rather than continuing to suspend or incarcerate these students will be a much more effective means to solving the problem.

I was proud to sponsor House Bill 410 and see it pass the Ohio House of Representatives. The bill now awaits approval in the Ohio Senate. This piece of legislation is an important first step toward comprehensive reform in our truancy system, especially through a method that keeps a student’s best interests in mind. 

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