March 14, 2024

Indiana schools have new requirements when students are truant

Nearly one in five Indiana students missed more than 10 percent of school in 2023-24, a substantial increase from before the pandemic.  - File Photo: WFYI

Nearly one in five Indiana students missed more than 10 percent of school in 2023-24, a substantial increase from before the pandemic.

File Photo: WFYI

Indiana schools will be required to intervene when elementary students are truant under a bill signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb this week.

Nearly one in five Indiana students missed more than 10 percent of school last year, a substantial increase from before the pandemic. The law aims to place more focus on attendance as a statewide priority by requiring state and local officials to hold regular meetings about the issue.

It also creates a template for how schools should respond when young students miss lots of school without an excuse. 

The new requirements for schools focus on students who are in kindergarten through sixth grade. If those students have five unexcused absences, schools must create an attendance plan.

That plan can include wraparound services, disciplinary action the school may take if the student does not meet attendance requirements, and referrals for services such as counseling. Schools must also hold meetings with parents about the absences.

The law also calls for schools to report students who are truant — meaning they have missed 10 days of school without an excuse — to the prosecutor. The prosecutor must notify parents of those reports. And it requires schools to notify parents that their family could be referred to the court or the Indiana Department of Child Services if the student is truant.

Although lawmakers said at the start of the session that school attendance would be a priority, the final law is relatively narrow. It does not address high school students, or students who have lots of absences with excuses such as illness.

The bill’s author, Sen. Stacy Donato, said the issue is too complicated to tackle all at once, and she called for the legislature to study how to respond when high schoolers miss lots of school. 

Legislative leaders have not said whether school attendance will be a focus this summer.

Contact WFYI education reporter Dylan Peers McCoy at dmccoy@wfyi.org.

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