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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: December 11, 2014 12:15 PM
From: Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf and Sen. Judith L. Schwank
To: All Senate members
Subject: Truancy
We are reintroducing a bill (SB 1455 of last session) eliminating the possibility that a parent will be jailed for failing to pay fines associated with the truancy of their children. This legislation is in response to the death of a Reading woman while she was jailed for truancy charges in Berks County Prison. Eileen DiNino, a 55-year-old mother of seven, died of undetermined causes as she was serving a 48-hour sentence for not paying fines a magisterial district justice imposed following her sons’ absences from school.

Referring a truancy case to a magisterial district judge should be the last resort. Our legislation requires the school district to first develop a truancy elimination plan for the child. The individualized truancy elimination plan shall be developed cooperatively with teachers and appropriate school personnel through a conference with the child’s family following the first notice of truancy.

The truancy elimination plan developed through the conference with the child’s family shall assess and identify the causes of truancy and include a mutually agreed-upon plan to assure regular school attendance. The truancy elimination plan shall include best practices in truancy prevention. The plan may include referring the child and family to evidence-based intervention programs for at-risk children and families.

If the truancy plan does not result in the child’s regular attendance at school and the case is subsequently referred to a court, the judge may use the tools presently in the law (paying a fine, participating in a parenting education course or performing community service) but shall not sentence the parent to jail.

Introduced as SB359