If you have a question or concern about special education law, school administration, federal standards, or the overall rights of a student, please feel free to call the expert education law attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. in Westport today at (203) 221-3100.
Repeated absences from school may lead to a petition for educational neglect and/or truancy. While some aspects of educational neglect and truancy overlap, there are some key distinctions. Truancy refers to a student who refuses to go to school. Meanwhile, educational neglect addresses a parent’s failure to ensure his or her child’s regular attendance at school. Schools file truancy petitions mostly for teens, where attendance is beyond a parent’s control. Educational neglect petitions, on the other hand, usually involve children in kindergarten through 8th grade.
Under Connecticut law, educational neglect occurs when a person responsible for a child’s health, welfare, or care interferes with the ability of a child, aged 7 to 15, to receive proper care and attention educationally. “Proper care and attention educationally” is “the consistent receipt of a program of educational instruction provided by a public school, a private school, or by a person responsible for the child’s health, welfare or care.” As a parent, you must ensure the education of your children from ages 7 through 11. DCF may accept a report of educational neglect from a school if: a) your child has a pattern of unexcused absences; b) your child fails to attend school; or c) you fail to, or refuse to, meet your child’s educational needs.
DCF will use the following criteria in determining the acceptance of a report of educational neglect:
- Your child’s age
- Your actions/inactions, including:
- Not enrolling a child age 7 through 15 in school or providing home instruction
- For children who are not enrolled in school, failing to take appropriate steps to ensure that the child attends school
- For children who are enrolled in school, refusing or failing to cooperate with school efforts to improve attendance, including school outreach efforts
The Reporting Process
If a school official suspects educational neglect, the school must submit a written “Report of Suspected Abuse/Neglect” to DCF. The report must include identifying information regarding you and your child, specific dates of the unexcused absences, and documentation of the following:
- In-school efforts to address the lack of attendance (i.e. meetings with you and your child)
- Outreach efforts to your family, including home visits, letters, phone calls, e-mails
- Efforts to refer your family and child to services and the school’s assessment of the results of such efforts
- The name and telephone number of the school contact person
A truant child is a child, aged 5 to 18, who is enrolled in school and has 4 unexcused absences in a month or 10 unexcused absences in a school year. Meanwhile, a “habitual truant” is a child who has 20 unexcused absences in any school year. Public schools in Connecticut must file a Family with Service Needs (FWSN) petition for all habitually truant children. However, such action is discretionary for children defined as truant.
A school cannot file a truancy petition before exhausting all available remedies to fix the problem. If the school fails to do so, the court will return the petition without any further action. A truancy petition does not preclude DCF from also filing an educational neglect petition. However, for children ages 12 through 15, DCF will not file a neglect petition unless the parent has acted irresponsibly.
The Reporting Process
A complaint for truancy must attest that the following has occurred:
- The school held a meeting with the parent, within 10 school days after the 4th unexcused absence in a month or the 10th unexcused absence in a school year. Appropriate school personnel must have reviewed and evaluated the reasons for the truancy.
- The school coordinated services and referrals for the child to provide the child and family with services.
- At the beginning of the year or enrollment, the school gave the parent written notice of obligations.
- School personnel tried to notify the parent whenever the child was absent and the parent was not aware of the child’s absence.
The complaint must document specific dates of unexcused absences, attempts to refer to community agencies providing child and family services, as well as parent/guardian meetings.
If you are concerned about the potential consequences of your child’s excessive absences, contact the experienced education law attorneys today at 203-221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com. We have the experience and knowledge you need at this critical juncture. We serve clients in both New York and Connecticut including New Canaan, Bridgeport, White Plains, and Darien.