BOE looks at new truancy policy

Published 8:55 am Monday, July 20, 2009

Plans to formulate a new truant/tardy policy for county students were among numerous items discussed by the Butler County Board of Education during Thursday night’s work session.

Superintendent Mike Looney requested approval to edit the current handbook and code of conduct with plans to create a separate, stand-alone document detailing a new policy on dealing with tardies and truants.

“I would like to strike all language dealing with truancy from the current handbook for a two-fold reason,” Looney said.

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“First, this would allow us to proceed with the printing of the handbook now, and second, it would extract the truancy language and allow it to be massaged by the board in order to create a new document that deals with truancy specifically.

I believe parents and students will be more apt to read it (as a stand-alone).”

While more than 95 percent of students attend school regularly, Looney said there was a small population who habitually do not come.

“I am not satisfied with the current model in dealing with this. We need support, help and input with this and we feel the court system also needs input. Right now, it can take a long time for a child to come before the judge in the court system for truancy and many valuable weeks of instruction time can be lost,” he said.

Looney said a “new level of accountability for students and parents” to get children to school would be sought, within the confines of a magistrate’s jurisdiction.

“This new policy has the potential to do a lot of good if it is structured well; it may also make a lot of people unhappy due to the consequences they will have to pay,” the superintendent said.

Looney said tardiness to classes would be considered an internal disciplinary problem and would be treated separately from late-to-school tardiness and truancy.

The superintendent asked if the board would be open to a change if the policy and language could be crafted appropriately as advised by legal council.

BOE member Billy Jones commented that the current policy was “not working,” and he felt a change was needed. BOE member Linda Hamilton said she would like to see it worked through to a final document “and let’s see what we have there.”

The board agreed to a special called meeting on Tuesday, August 4 at 6 p.m. to discuss progress made in crafting the new policy.

President Joe Lisenby stressed, “We will not begin school without a published, shared policy on tardiness and truancy.”