New Truancy Law Provides Clearer Guidelines

Carson Valley Children's Aid has operated its Truancy program for 18 years. Pennsylvania's new Truancy Act 138 has increased CVCA's ability to address significant truancy issues within the community. Governor Tom Wolf signed the new truancy legislation into law on Thursday, November 3, 2016. The new provisions took effect at the start of the 2017-18 school year. Before the new law, deciding how many missed days are punishable and what action is taken varied from district to district. Under the new law, the state has a clear definition of truancy -- for the first time.

The law states a child is truant after accumulating three unexcused absences in a school year, and they are considered chronically truant after six absences. Another key departure from Pennsylvania’s prior truancy law is that charter and cyber-charter schools are now responsible for filing citations with magisterial district courts or referring truancy to the local CYS (Children and Youth Services) agencies. Previously, charters were only required to report school attendance and unexcused absences to a child’s school district of residence. CYS agencies like CVCA cannot intervene until they know how to help, and they will not know how to help until they understand the root of the problem. This shift in the delegation of responsibility enforced by the new law arranges cases with filed citations more efficiently.

Carson Valley Children’s Aid’s Truancy Prevention and Intervention Program operates from the stance that “Truancy is not the issue, it is the symptom” says Jameelah Hairston, Truancy Program Supervisor. Truancy is the symptom that a child, or family is struggling in some way, whether it be academically, through physical abuse, neglect, or as a result of their lack of resources. CVCA’s Truancy program significantly benefits from this recent change, as the clearer guidelines help better identify which students are having significant issues and CYS agencies are made aware of these citations first.

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