“Why weren’t you in school?” Allen bill aims at roots of absenteeism
Chronic school absenteeism lands in the crosshairs of Burlington State Senator Diane Allen's sights, with legislation to zero in on the causes and develop remedies.
"Students that repeatedly miss school aren't getting the education they deserve," Allen said in prepared remarks.
"They fall behind their classmates and suffer serious setbacks in their studies that can have a significant effect on their future success. We need to make attendance a top priority, and this legislation helps us do that."
Absenteeism is defined as chronic when total absences reaches 10 percent or more of the number of days in an academic year. The figure includes excused, unexcued, and disciplinary-related absences.
The Senator cites a study by Advocates for Children of New Jersey that categorized 136,000 of New Jersey's K-12 students, or 10 percent, as chronically absent in 2014-2015.
Allen's measure would require information of chronic absenteeism and disciplinary suspensions to be included on report cards, and would place the onus on school administrators to develop corrective plans when the syndrome affects 10 percent or more of a student body.
Corrective plans would include identification of conditions considered obstacles to regular attendance, recommendations for overcoming the barriers, explanation of methods to impress on parents and guardians the value of school attendance, engagement procedures for elders when absentee patterns emerge, and a review of school policies to ensure support of improved attendance.
The bill won unanimous approval in the Senate and Assembly Education Committees.
Allen leaves the Legislature at the end of her term.