SB 6497 relates to court-based and school-based intervention and prevention efforts to promote attendance and reduce truancy. The bill amends current language indicating schools must make reasonable efforts to ensure parents are given information regarding truancy and attendance in a language in which they are fluent. The bill would add language indicating that elementary children with 5 or more excused absences in a single month or 10 or more excused absences in a single school year the school district shall convene a conference with the parent and child to identify barriers and necessary supports and resources so that the child is able to regularly attend school. The bill would amend current statute to indicate schools must take data-informed steps to eliminate or reduce the child's absences; the bill would include the use of the Washington Assessment of the Risks and Needs of Students (WARNS) and, as appropriate, provide an available approved best-practice or research-based intervention, or both, as consistent with the WARNS profile. The bill would add language to current law indicating all members of community truancy board must receive training regarding the identification of barriers to school attendance, the use of WARNS or other assessment tools to identify specific needs of trauma-informed, evidence-based to support at-risk youth and their parents. The bill would add language to current law regarding school districts submitting a petition and supporting an affidavit for a civil action with the juvenile court specifying that the petition must include a list of all interventions that had been attempted including a copy of any previous truancy assessment completed by the child's school district, a history of approved best practices and research-based interventions provided to the child, and copy of the most recent truancy information signed by the parent and child. The bill would add language to current law that by August 1, 2017 the child and the child's parent must be referred to a community truancy board when a petition is filed. Between August 1, 2016 and July 31, 2017 intervention and prevention efforts must be employed to substantially reduce the child's absence. The bill would amend current law to indicate suspension shall not be considered an unexcused absence. The bill also adds language to current law related to indicate a court may order a child subject to submit to a mental health evaluation or other diagnostic evaluation and adhere to the recommendations of the drug assessment at no cost to the school. The bill would add language to current law to increase the number of HOPE beds incrementally through fiscal year 2019.
The bill was amended by the Human Services, Mental Health & Housing committee in the following ways:
- Parent-teacher conferences following a series of excused absences must include school district personnel "such as" the specified professionals, including teachers. The conference need not be held if a doctor's note has been provided and an academic plan is in place. The conference may be combined with another regularly scheduled conference within 30 days.
- The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction must develop recommendations as to how mandatory school attendance and truancy amelioration provisions should be applied to online schools, with a report date of November 1, 2016
The bill was amended by the Ways & Means committee in the following ways:
- Detention ordered as a contempt sanction for violation of a truancy order shall preferably be served at a secure crisis residential center, rather than a crisis residential center.
- A judge may order a child subject to a truancy petition to submit to temporary placement in a crisis residential center if the court determines there is an immediate health and safety concern, or a family conflict with the need for mediation.
- A school district with less than 200 students may work cooperatively with other school districts, the county court, or the school district’s educational service district to provide a community truancy board or other interventions approved by the juvenile court, and associated screenings and services to its students.
- Truancy cases stayed by the juvenile court must be resolved or returned to court within a reasonable time frame established by the school district.
- A technical amendment clarifies that a parent-teacher conference relating to a child’s excused absences may be scheduled on the same day as another regularly scheduled conference day within 30 days.
- Directs the Washington State Institute for Public Policy to evaluate the effectiveness of the act in increasing access to truancy early intervention programs, reducing truancy petition proceedings, and reducing contempt and detention orders.
As amended by a striker, the House Judiciary committee strikes the underlying bill, and replaces it with all of the provisions from 2SHB 2449, some of which are identical or similar to provisions in the underlying bill and some of which are different, as follows:
- Similarly requires that parents be provided with information related to benefits of attendance, consequences of truancy, and available resources but provides that provision must be made to enable parents to request/receive information in the language in which they are fluent rather than requiring that reasonable efforts to so enable parents must be made.
- Includes identical provisions relative to the process schools must follow with respect to excused absences on the part of elementary students.
- Strikes requirement that all schools, except those with 200 students or less, have community truancy boards (CTBs) and instead encourages employment of therapeutic truancy boards (TTBs).
- Strikes provisions related to funding CTBs via Learning Assistance Program (LAP).
- Includes grant program, subject to funding, that provides grant funds to TTBs for training and services.
- Similarly requires that initial truancy petition be stayed and intervention and prevention efforts be employed, but does not require referral to a CTB.
- Similarly provides that detention in crisis residential centers (CRCs) is preferred over detention in juvenile detention facility in instances of contempt of court.
- Similarly allows court, following hearing on petition, to order child to submit to temporary placement in a CRC if court determines there is an immediate health/safety concern or family conflict needing mediation but does not include provision allowing court to order mental health evaluation or amend the language with respect to testing for substance abuse.
- Similarly provides that, subject to funding, there will be an increase in the number of HOPE beds and CRC capacity but does not provide specific annual numbers as did the underlying bill.
- Provides, in an identical fashion, for OSPI to develop and report recommendations with respect to how mandatory attendance and truancy amelioration should be applied to online schools.
- Similarly requires a WSIPP evaluation but also requires a review and provides different due dates.
- Provides for a review/recommendations by Educational Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee.
- Provides that courts will provide certain data and Administrative Office of the Courts shall report re: Detentions.
- Names the act the Keeping Kids in Schools Act.
As amended by the House Appropriations committee, a null and void clause is added. If specific funding for the bill is not included in the budget, the bill is null and void.