Senate Bill No. 447
(By Senators Palumbo and Plymale)
[Originating in the Committee on the Judiciary;
reported February 25, 2011.]
A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto two new sections, designated §18-8-2a and §18-8-12, all relating to improving school attendance generally; requiring county school superintendents or their designees to request and obtain an investigation by the Department of Health and Human Resources of the household of a student with five or more unexcused absences; exceptions; authorizing prosecuting attorneys to request and obtain attendance of Child Protective Services workers or youth services workers at hearings and meetings related to prosecution of violation of school attendance laws; requiring appointment of a truancy and dropout prevention team in every county; requiring representatives of certain entities be included on team; requiring development and adoption of truancy and dropout prevention plan; and setting forth minimum terms to be included in the plan.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended by adding thereto two new sections, designated §18-8-2a and §18-8-12, all to read as follows:
ARTICLE 8. COMPULSORY SCHOOL ATTENDANCE.
§18-8-2a. Procedures to assist in assuring attendance of students.
(a) Whenever a child in kindergarten or grades one through twelve is determined after an investigation by a county superintendent or his or her designee to have more than five unexcused absences from school in any one school year the superintendent or his or her designee shall inform the Community Service Manager for the Department of Health and Human Resources county office who shall cause a child protective services worker or youth services worker to contact the household of the student and attempt to determine the cause or causes of the unexcused absences within three school days of receipt of the information and promulgate a written report of his or her findings and provide the report to the superintendent or his or her designee and the prosecuting attorney of the child’s county of residence within ten business days of the contact to the household: Provided, That should the parent or guardian provide reasonable justification for the absences the investigation may cease and the board of education so notified.
(b) Whenever a prosecuting attorney is pursuing a prosecution pursuant to the provisions of subsection (a), section two of this article he or she may request the attendance of a child protective services worker or youth services worker at court proceedings or meetings that are undertaken to resolve the cause of the unexcused absences. At the request of the prosecuting attorney the community services manager for the child’s county of residence shall ensure the attendance of a child protective services worker or youth services worker at the proceeding or meeting.
§18-8-12. Truancy and dropout prevention teams and plan.
(a) The county superintendent of each county shall appoint a truancy and dropout prevention team. The truancy and dropout prevention team shall include representatives of the circuit court of the county, the county Department of Health and Human Resources office and the school district.
(b) The truancy and dropout prevention team shall meet as needed and shall develop a recommended truancy and dropout prevention plan. The plan may be in addition to or made a part of the student retention and graduation rate plan required by section six of this article. The truancy and dropout prevention team shall submit the plan to the county board for its consideration. The county board shall consider the recommended plan and adopt the plan, adopt a modified plan or adopt its own plan for implementation by the county.
(c) The plan shall include but is not limited to the following:
(1) Operational procedures designed to increase attendance and reduce truancy specifically applicable to the elementary school level, the middle school level and the high school level. The operating procedures shall include any procedures required by this article. Other operational procedures that shall be included are as follows:
(A) An automated attendance phone call is made to the parent, guardian or custodian when a student is absent one or more periods during the school day;
(B) An attendance letter is sent home to the parent, guardian or custodian after three days of unexcused absences;
(C) A meeting between a school administrator or guidance counselor, a parent, guardian or custodian and the student is held to correct attendance issues after three days of unexcused absences; and
(D) The conference with the principal or other designated representative of the school required by section four of this article after five total unexcused absences shall include a representative of the truancy and dropout prevention team and representatives of the circuit court and Department of Health and Human Resources; and
(2) Methodologies for early identification of students at risk of dropping out of school. In developing these methodologies for early identification, the truancy and dropout prevention team and the county board shall consider including the following potential indicators in the plan:
(B) Grade retention;
(C) Behavioral issues;
(D) Kindergarten attendance;
(E) Whether grade appropriate reading and mathematic scores indicate that a student is functioning at grade level;
(F) Whether students entering middle school and high school are functioning at grade level;
(G) Whether a student is eligible for the McKinney-Vento program; and
(H) Any indicators identified in the comprehensive statewide individual student data system required to be developed in accordance with section five, article eight-b of this chapter.