Sen. Emmons sponsors bills to help keep kids in school

Sen. Judy Emmons

Sen. Judy Emmons

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Judy Emmons has introduced legislation to help prevent Michigan children from skipping class and outlining intervention measures for dealing with truant students.

“Addressing truancy throughout our state is a high priority as we know that success in life begins with consistent attendance in school,” said Emmons, R-Sheridan. “An illustration of the importance of education are the facts that nearly half of the people sent to Michigan prisons in 2012 did not graduate from high school and less than 30 percent of Michigan inmates can read at more than a third-grade level.

“Unfortunately, a major problem we have in addressing truancy is a lack of standard definitions for truancy and absenteeism — and, therefore, no reliable data on the prevalence of the problem or what school actions are working to reduce it.”

Senate Bill 105, sponsored by Emmons, would require a school board’s annual report regarding expulsions to include data about suspensions, truancy, chronic absence and disciplinary absence.

SB 103 would define truancy and chronic absenteeism in state law. “Truancy” would be defined as missing 10 unexcused days in a school year, and “chronic absenteeism” would be defined as being absent for at least 10 percent of the scheduled school days in a school year, including excused and unexcused absences and absences due to disciplinary reasons.

The bill would also prohibit a child from being suspended or expelled solely for truancy or chronic absence from school.

“Punishing students for skipping school by sending them home is counterproductive and can make a bad problem even worse,” Emmons said. “Students who miss school are more likely to struggle academically and drop out of school altogether, and the long-term impacts on both the dropout and society are tremendous. These measures would outline proactive steps for dealing with truant students while understanding that many students miss class for reasons beyond apathy, like dealing with problems at home or being bullied at school.”

SB 104 would require a school district to notify a child’s parent to attend a meeting regarding the child’s attendance irregularity while also allowing a superintendent to consider the reason for the child’s absence and lesser interventions before requiring a meeting with a parent. SB 106 would extend the family court’s exclusive jurisdiction to a juvenile who was found to be truant.

SBs 103-106 have been referred to the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee, where Emmons serves as chairwoman.