Schuitmaker introduces package to define, combat truancy

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Lansing, Mich. — State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker on Thursday introduced a four-bill package to reform Michigan’s truancy laws.

“This package reforming Michigan’s truancy laws would create an environment for our students to succeed,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “In the Legislature, we are constantly working to make our schools better for students, and this package is about making sure we keep students in school.”

Senate Bills 405-408 would require schools to investigate non-attendance; require attendance officers to notify parents if a student is truant or chronically absent; and increase reporting requirements for schools, including reports for suspensions and disciplinary absences.

Schuitmaker said one key aspect of the legislation is the establishment of statewide definitions for the terms truant, chronically absent, excused absence and unexcused absence. This change will create consistent reporting throughout the state and will provide more reliable data to teachers and administrators.

“Over the past five years, we have invested heavily in making our schools better places to learn and prepare the next generation,” Schuitmaker said. “Reforming our truancy laws is one way we can make sure students are in school and getting the most out of their education. If we can better define truancy and allow our schools to have more informative and useful reporting mechanisms, then schools and parents can be better prepared to address the issues surrounding a student’s truancy or chronic absence.”

Schuitmaker has worked with the Michigan School-Justice Partnership, as well as Gov. Snyder’s office on finding common-sense reforms for Michigan’s truancy laws.

“The Michigan Probate Judges Association supports this legislation as a step toward keeping our children in school and out of the justice system,” said Judge Dorene S. Allen, chair of the MPJA Juvenile Issues Committee. “It is clear that defining truancy is critical to a consistent application of truancy enforcement throughout the state. Our children will benefit from this legislation tremendously and we thank Senators Schuitmaker and Emmons for their commitment to this cause.”

Schuitmaker said school attendance and graduation lead to future success later in life. According to the Michigan School-Justice Partnership, Michigan has approximately 400 14-18 year-olds in adult state correctional facilities and within the entire corrections system 49 percent of inmates do not have a high school diploma or GED. Even worse, almost three-quarters of inmates read at less than a third grade level.

“Early and effective intervention aimed at keeping our kids in school will have a lasting, positive impact on countless families across the state,” added Schuitmaker.

SBs 405-408 have been referred to the Senate Education Committee for further consideration.