Florida Senate - 2020                                     SB 588
       By Senator Rouson
       19-00912-20                                            2020588__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to the enforcement of school
    3         attendance; amending s. 1003.26, F.S.; authorizing
    4         district school boards and charter school governing
    5         boards to allow a specified number of mental health
    6         days as excused absences for students; providing an
    7         effective date.
    9  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   11         Section 1. Section 1003.26, Florida Statutes, is amended to
   12  read:
   13         1003.26 Enforcement of school attendance.—The Legislature
   14  finds that poor academic performance is associated with
   15  nonattendance and that school districts must take an active role
   16  in promoting and enforcing attendance as a means of improving
   17  student performance. It is the policy of the state that each
   18  district school superintendent be responsible for enforcing
   19  school attendance of all students subject to the compulsory
   20  school age in the school district and supporting enforcement of
   21  school attendance by local law enforcement agencies. The
   22  responsibility includes recommending policies and procedures to
   23  the district school board that require public schools to respond
   24  in a timely manner to every unexcused absence, and every absence
   25  for which the reason is unknown, of students enrolled in the
   26  schools. Each district school board and charter school governing
   27  board may allow up to 1 mental health day for each semester as
   28  an excused absence for a student as part of its policies
   29  relating to student absences. District school board policies
   30  shall require the parent of a student to justify each absence of
   31  the student, and that justification will be evaluated based on
   32  adopted district school board policies that define excused and
   33  unexcused absences. The policies must provide that public
   34  schools track excused and unexcused absences and contact the
   35  home in the case of an unexcused absence from school, or an
   36  absence from school for which the reason is unknown, to prevent
   37  the development of patterns of nonattendance. The Legislature
   38  finds that early intervention in school attendance is the most
   39  effective way of producing good attendance habits that will lead
   40  to improved student learning and achievement. Each public school
   41  shall implement the following steps to promote and enforce
   42  regular school attendance:
   43         (1) CONTACT, REFER, AND ENFORCE.—
   44         (a) Upon each unexcused absence, or absence for which the
   45  reason is unknown, the school principal or his or her designee
   46  shall contact the student’s parent to determine the reason for
   47  the absence. If the absence is an excused absence, as defined by
   48  district school board policy, the school shall provide
   49  opportunities for the student to make up assigned work and not
   50  receive an academic penalty unless the work is not made up
   51  within a reasonable time.
   52         (b) If a student has had at least five unexcused absences,
   53  or absences for which the reasons are unknown, within a calendar
   54  month or 10 unexcused absences, or absences for which the
   55  reasons are unknown, within a 90-calendar-day period, the
   56  student’s primary teacher shall report to the school principal
   57  or his or her designee that the student may be exhibiting a
   58  pattern of nonattendance. The principal shall, unless there is
   59  clear evidence that the absences are not a pattern of
   60  nonattendance, refer the case to the school’s child study team
   61  to determine if early patterns of truancy are developing. If the
   62  child study team finds that a pattern of nonattendance is
   63  developing, whether the absences are excused or not, a meeting
   64  with the parent must be scheduled to identify potential
   65  remedies, and the principal shall notify the district school
   66  superintendent and the school district contact for home
   67  education programs that the referred student is exhibiting a
   68  pattern of nonattendance.
   69         (c) If an initial meeting does not resolve the problem, the
   70  child study team shall implement the following:
   71         1. Frequent attempts at communication between the teacher
   72  and the family.
   73         2. Evaluation for alternative education programs.
   74         3. Attendance contracts.
   76  The child study team may, but is not required to, implement
   77  other interventions, including referral to other agencies for
   78  family services or recommendation for filing a truancy petition
   79  pursuant to s. 984.151.
   80         (d) The child study team shall be diligent in facilitating
   81  intervention services and shall report the case to the district
   82  school superintendent only when all reasonable efforts to
   83  resolve the nonattendance behavior are exhausted.
   84         (e) If the parent refuses to participate in the remedial
   85  strategies because he or she believes that those strategies are
   86  unnecessary or inappropriate, the parent may appeal to the
   87  district school board. The district school board may provide a
   88  hearing officer, and the hearing officer shall make a
   89  recommendation for final action to the district school board. If
   90  the district school board’s final determination is that the
   91  strategies of the child study team are appropriate, and the
   92  parent still refuses to participate or cooperate, the district
   93  school superintendent may seek criminal prosecution for
   94  noncompliance with compulsory school attendance.
   95         (f)1. If the parent of a child who has been identified as
   96  exhibiting a pattern of nonattendance enrolls the child in a
   97  home education program pursuant to chapter 1002, the district
   98  school superintendent shall provide the parent a copy of s.
   99  1002.41 and the accountability requirements of this paragraph.
  100  The district school superintendent shall also refer the parent
  101  to a home education review committee composed of the district
  102  contact for home education programs and at least two home
  103  educators selected by the parent from a district list of all
  104  home educators who have conducted a home education program for
  105  at least 3 years and who have indicated a willingness to serve
  106  on the committee. The home education review committee shall
  107  review the portfolio of the student, as defined by s. 1002.41,
  108  every 30 days during the district’s regular school terms until
  109  the committee is satisfied that the home education program is in
  110  compliance with s. 1002.41(1)(d). The first portfolio review
  111  must occur within the first 30 calendar days of the
  112  establishment of the program. The provisions of subparagraph 2.
  113  do not apply once the committee determines the home education
  114  program is in compliance with s. 1002.41(1)(d).
  115         2. If the parent fails to provide a portfolio to the
  116  committee, the committee shall notify the district school
  117  superintendent. The district school superintendent shall then
  118  terminate the home education program and require the parent to
  119  enroll the child in an attendance option that meets the
  120  definition of “regular school attendance” under s.
  121  1003.01(13)(a), (b), (c), or (e), within 3 days. Upon
  122  termination of a home education program pursuant to this
  123  subparagraph, the parent shall not be eligible to reenroll the
  124  child in a home education program for 180 calendar days. Failure
  125  of a parent to enroll the child in an attendance option as
  126  required by this subparagraph after termination of the home
  127  education program pursuant to this subparagraph shall constitute
  128  noncompliance with the compulsory attendance requirements of s.
  129  1003.21 and may result in criminal prosecution under s.
  130  1003.27(2). Nothing contained herein shall restrict the ability
  131  of the district school superintendent, or the ability of his or
  132  her designee, to review the portfolio pursuant to s.
  133  1002.41(1)(e).
  134         (g) If a student subject to compulsory school attendance
  135  will not comply with attempts to enforce school attendance, the
  136  parent or the district school superintendent or his or her
  137  designee shall refer the case to the case staffing committee
  138  pursuant to s. 984.12, and the district school superintendent or
  139  his or her designee may file a truancy petition pursuant to the
  140  procedures in s. 984.151.
  141         (2) GIVE WRITTEN NOTICE.—
  142         (a) Under the direction of the district school
  143  superintendent, a designated school representative shall give
  144  written notice that requires enrollment or attendance within 3
  145  days after the date of notice, in person or by return-receipt
  146  mail, to the parent when no valid reason is found for a
  147  student’s nonenrollment in school. If the notice and requirement
  148  are ignored, the designated school representative shall report
  149  the case to the district school superintendent, who may refer
  150  the case to the child study team in paragraph (1)(b) at the
  151  school the student would be assigned according to district
  152  school board attendance area policies or to the case staffing
  153  committee, established pursuant to s. 984.12. The child study
  154  team shall diligently facilitate intervention services and shall
  155  report the case back to the district school superintendent only
  156  when all reasonable efforts to resolve the nonenrollment
  157  behavior are exhausted. If the parent still refuses to cooperate
  158  or enroll the child in school, the district school
  159  superintendent shall take such steps as are necessary to bring
  160  criminal prosecution against the parent.
  161         (b) Subsequent to the activities required under subsection
  162  (1), the district school superintendent or his or her designee
  163  shall give written notice in person or by return-receipt mail to
  164  the parent that criminal prosecution is being sought for
  165  nonattendance. The district school superintendent may file a
  166  truancy petition, as defined in s. 984.03, following the
  167  procedures outlined in s. 984.151.
  168         (3) RETURN STUDENT TO PARENT.—A designated school
  169  representative may visit the home or place of residence of a
  170  student and any other place in which he or she is likely to find
  171  any student who is required to attend school when the student is
  172  not enrolled or is absent from school during school hours
  173  without an excuse, and, when the student is found, shall return
  174  the student to his or her parent or to the principal or teacher
  175  in charge of the school, or to the private tutor from whom
  176  absent, or to the juvenile assessment center or other location
  177  established by the district school board to receive students who
  178  are absent from school. Upon receipt of the student, the parent
  179  shall be immediately notified.
  180         (4) REPORT TO APPROPRIATE AUTHORITY.—A designated school
  181  representative shall report to the appropriate authority
  182  designated by law to receive such notices, all violations of the
  183  Child Labor Law that may come to his or her knowledge.
  184         (5) RIGHT TO INSPECT.—A designated school representative
  185  shall have the right of access to, and inspection of,
  186  establishments where minors may be employed or detained only for
  187  the purpose of ascertaining whether students of compulsory
  188  school age are actually employed there and are actually working
  189  there regularly. The designated school representative shall, if
  190  he or she finds unsatisfactory working conditions or violations
  191  of the Child Labor Law, report his or her findings to the
  192  appropriate authority.
  193         Section 2. This act shall take effect July 1, 2020.