On May 18, the Senate approved legislation I sponsored aimed at keeping students in the classroom.
While our current law requires children to be in school, there is not a consistent definition of what it means to be ‘truant’. Schools across the state have implemented different truancy policies, which has placed administrators and the courts in a difficult position as they work to remedy attendance problems.
Senate Bills 103-106 would establish definitions for both “truancy” and “chronic absenteeism” in the state’s school code. Truancy would be defined as having a minimum of 10 unexcused absences in a school year, while chronically absent would be defined as being absent for at least 10 percent of the scheduled school days in a school year, including both excused and unexcused absences, and absences due to disciplinary reasons.
Students who miss more and more class time struggle academically, face a decreased chance of graduating and are more likely to fall into the criminal justice system. Because dropouts are more likely to face prison time, the state also has a strong fiscal interest in keeping kids in the classroom and ensuring they receive a proper education and skills to succeed.
The legislation also includes measure that seek not only to prevent kids from missing class, but also to determine the underlying reasons for student absences. Included are provisions that prohibit children from being suspended or expelled solely for truancy of chronic absence from school.
Our current system relies too heavily on punishment versus finding solutions. More often than not, the response is to suspend the student, which only further removes them from the classroom and valuable resources they need to be successful. We owe it to our students to ensure that they thrive in the classroom and stay out of the courtroom.
SBs 103-106 are now before the Michigan House of Representatives for further consideration.