1003.26 Enforcement of school attendance.—The Legislature finds that poor academic performance is associated with nonattendance and that school districts must take an active role in promoting and enforcing attendance as a means of improving student performance. It is the policy of the state that each district school superintendent be responsible for enforcing school attendance of all students subject to the compulsory school age in the school district and supporting enforcement of school attendance by local law enforcement agencies. The responsibility includes recommending policies and procedures to the district school board that require public schools to respond in a timely manner to every unexcused absence, and every absence for which the reason is unknown, of students enrolled in the schools. District school board policies shall require the parent of a student to justify each absence of the student, and that justification will be evaluated based on adopted district school board policies that define excused and unexcused absences. The policies must provide that public schools track excused and unexcused absences and contact the home in the case of an unexcused absence from school, or an absence from school for which the reason is unknown, to prevent the development of patterns of nonattendance. The Legislature finds that early intervention in school attendance is the most effective way of producing good attendance habits that will lead to improved student learning and achievement. Each public school shall implement the following steps to promote and enforce regular school attendance:
(1) CONTACT, REFER, AND ENFORCE.—
(a) Upon each unexcused absence, or absence for which the reason is unknown, the school principal or his or her designee shall contact the student’s parent to determine the reason for the absence. If the absence is an excused absence, as defined by district school board policy, the school shall provide opportunities for the student to make up assigned work and not receive an academic penalty unless the work is not made up within a reasonable time.
(b) If a student has had at least five unexcused absences, or absences for which the reasons are unknown, within a calendar month or 10 unexcused absences, or absences for which the reasons are unknown, within a 90-calendar-day period, the student’s primary teacher shall report to the school principal or his or her designee that the student may be exhibiting a pattern of nonattendance. The principal shall, unless there is clear evidence that the absences are not a pattern of nonattendance, refer the case to the school’s child study team to determine if early patterns of truancy are developing. If the child study team finds that a pattern of nonattendance is developing, whether the absences are excused or not, a meeting with the parent must be scheduled to identify potential remedies, and the principal shall notify the district school superintendent and the school district contact for home education programs that the referred student is exhibiting a pattern of nonattendance.
(c) If an initial meeting does not resolve the problem, the child study team shall implement the following:
1. Frequent attempts at communication between the teacher and the family.
2. Evaluation for alternative education programs.
3. Attendance contracts.
The child study team may, but is not required to, implement other interventions, including referral to other agencies for family services or recommendation for filing a truancy petition pursuant to s. 984.151.
(d) The child study team shall be diligent in facilitating intervention services and shall report the case to the district school superintendent only when all reasonable efforts to resolve the nonattendance behavior are exhausted.
(e) If the parent refuses to participate in the remedial strategies because he or she believes that those strategies are unnecessary or inappropriate, the parent may appeal to the district school board. The district school board may provide a hearing officer, and the hearing officer shall make a recommendation for final action to the district school board. If the district school board’s final determination is that the strategies of the child study team are appropriate, and the parent still refuses to participate or cooperate, the district school superintendent may seek criminal prosecution for noncompliance with compulsory school attendance.
(f)1. If the parent of a child who has been identified as exhibiting a pattern of nonattendance enrolls the child in a home education program pursuant to chapter 1002, the district school superintendent shall provide the parent a copy of s. 1002.41 and the accountability requirements of this paragraph. The district school superintendent shall also refer the parent to a home education review committee composed of the district contact for home education programs and at least two home educators selected by the parent from a district list of all home educators who have conducted a home education program for at least 3 years and who have indicated a willingness to serve on the committee. The home education review committee shall review the portfolio of the student, as defined by s. 1002.41, every 30 days during the district’s regular school terms until the committee is satisfied that the home education program is in compliance with s. 1002.41(1)(b). The first portfolio review must occur within the first 30 calendar days of the establishment of the program. The provisions of subparagraph 2. do not apply once the committee determines the home education program is in compliance with s. 1002.41(1)(b).
2. If the parent fails to provide a portfolio to the committee, the committee shall notify the district school superintendent. The district school superintendent shall then terminate the home education program and require the parent to enroll the child in an attendance option that meets the definition of “regular school attendance” under s. 1003.01(13)(a), (b), (c), or (e), within 3 days. Upon termination of a home education program pursuant to this subparagraph, the parent shall not be eligible to reenroll the child in a home education program for 180 calendar days. Failure of a parent to enroll the child in an attendance option as required by this subparagraph after termination of the home education program pursuant to this subparagraph shall constitute noncompliance with the compulsory attendance requirements of s. 1003.21 and may result in criminal prosecution under s. 1003.27(2). Nothing contained herein shall restrict the ability of the district school superintendent, or the ability of his or her designee, to review the portfolio pursuant to s. 1002.41(1)(b).
(g) If a student subject to compulsory school attendance will not comply with attempts to enforce school attendance, the parent or the district school superintendent or his or her designee shall refer the case to the case staffing committee pursuant to s. 984.12, and the district school superintendent or his or her designee may file a truancy petition pursuant to the procedures in s. 984.151.
(2) GIVE WRITTEN NOTICE.—
(a) Under the direction of the district school superintendent, a designated school representative shall give written notice that requires enrollment or attendance within 3 days after the date of notice, in person or by return-receipt mail, to the parent when no valid reason is found for a student’s nonenrollment in school. If the notice and requirement are ignored, the designated school representative shall report the case to the district school superintendent, and may refer the case to the case staffing committee, established pursuant to s. 984.12. The district school superintendent shall take such steps as are necessary to bring criminal prosecution against the parent.
(b) Subsequent to the activities required under subsection (1), the district school superintendent or his or her designee shall give written notice in person or by return-receipt mail to the parent that criminal prosecution is being sought for nonattendance. The district school superintendent may file a truancy petition, as defined in s. 984.03, following the procedures outlined in s. 984.151.
(3) RETURN STUDENT TO PARENT.—A designated school representative may visit the home or place of residence of a student and any other place in which he or she is likely to find any student who is required to attend school when the student is not enrolled or is absent from school during school hours without an excuse, and, when the student is found, shall return the student to his or her parent or to the principal or teacher in charge of the school, or to the private tutor from whom absent, or to the juvenile assessment center or other location established by the district school board to receive students who are absent from school. Upon receipt of the student, the parent shall be immediately notified.
(4) REPORT TO APPROPRIATE AUTHORITY.—A designated school representative shall report to the appropriate authority designated by law to receive such notices, all violations of the Child Labor Law that may come to his or her knowledge.
(5) RIGHT TO INSPECT.—A designated school representative shall have the right of access to, and inspection of, establishments where minors may be employed or detained only for the purpose of ascertaining whether students of compulsory school age are actually employed there and are actually working there regularly. The designated school representative shall, if he or she finds unsatisfactory working conditions or violations of the Child Labor Law, report his or her findings to the appropriate authority.
History.—s. 121, ch. 2002-387; s. 5, ch. 2006-301.