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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: December 2, 2014 03:35 PM
From: Senator Anthony H. Williams
To: All Senate members
Subject: Childhood Truancy Prevention
In the near future, I will reintroduce SB 1216 aimed at combating truancy among elementary and middle school students in Commonwealth public schools through family-focused remedial anti-truancy programs.

Failure to complete high school is a chief impediment to developing the strongest possible workforce. The Philadelphia Tribune, for example, reports that a Philadelphia student drops out of school every 26 seconds. According to the latest data from the America’s Promise Alliance, current trends hold that Pennsylvania will not achieve the national goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020. Regular attendance, especially in younger children, is a key indicator of whether a child will go on to graduate from high school. For children under the age of 14, parents and guardians bear nearly all responsibility for ensuring that school attendance requirements are met.

Built on the existing framework of a highly successful program currently in use both in California public schools and in Philadelphia charter schools, this legislation would allow a county’s district attorney to access attendance records including the name and address of parents or guardians of chronically truant children.

This legislation would provide district attorneys and the Attorney General with a legal exception to the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, requiring health departments and school districts to release to them the attendance records for children under the age of 14. Under my legislation, district attorneys would be able to contact the parents of chronically truant children with a letter urging them to take corrective action through a district attorney's designated community anti-truancy program or face a charge of endangering the welfare of a child.

The existing Philadelphia program reports a 95 percent success rate in improving student attendance at charter schools, with not a single parent charged. It's time to spread this piloted success to other public schools as well.

Introduced as SB36