It is extremely important that all of our students be present and engaged in their learning in order for them to achieve and grow. It is our hope that Fort Bend ISD’s new attendance procedures will convey the importance of daily attendance while also supporting students and their families.
What changed for students?
You may be aware that the 84th Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2398, which changed the state’s attendance laws and created a new civil process governing truancy proceedings. This means student truancy proceedings will be moved to a civil court, rather than a criminal court. However, it is important to understand that parents who contribute to nonattendance can still be subject to criminal prosecution, as that part of the law remained intact.
Our District has worked hard to implement measures to keep students in class and out of the court process altogether. As required by law, a truancy referral will be sent to the court after a student reaches 10 or more unexcused absences in a six-month period, and only after other interventions at the campus and District levels have been attempted. Though we will continue to use computers to track student attendance and trigger some actions when a student reaches a certain number of absences, we will also be adding staffing at our high schools to ensure accuracy and provide more personal interactions with our families.
Please note the new attendance procedures for 2015-2016 below:
• Upon any student absence, an automated phone call will go to the parent/guardian the same day.
• Upon the student’s return, he or she will have five school days to provide a note of excuse for any absence to the school’s attendance clerk. Details about excusable absences can be found in the student handbook.
• Upon the third unexcused absence in a four-week period or the fifth total unexcused absence, a truancy warning letter will be mailed to the parent at the home address on record with the school, and Truancy Prevention Measures will be implemented by the campus assistant principal. Campus staff will have discretion on how they can reach out and provide services, counseling, and other interventions to students and their families, prior to a student’s 10th unexcused absence and referral to the court.
• Upon the fifth total unexcused absence, a Truancy Diversion Program (TDP) Letter will be sent to the parent/guardian. In addition, an automated phone call will go to the parent/guardian the week prior to the scheduled TDP meeting. During the TDP, parents and students will sign a Student Attendance Contract.
• Following an invitation to TDP, the parent/guardian and student will meet with the campus assistant principal and any relevant staff to develop a Truancy Action Plan. This provides another opportunity for staff to assist students and their families, inquiring about reasons for their absences, and connecting them to services that may be available.
• If a student accrues ten unexcused absences in a six-month period, whether the student/parent has attended TDP or not, a truancy referral will be sent to the appropriate authority, unless the student is eligible for one of the four exceptions under the law. If truancy is the result of pregnancy, foster care, homelessness, or if the student is his or her household’s primary income earner, a referral will not be made. Truancy prevention and support services will continue to be offered at the campus level. To learn more, go to fortbendisd.com.
FBISD will share additional information about its attendance procedures as we begin the 2015-2016 school year. As we implement these new practices, we will also be launching an awareness campaign this fall to educate students, parents, staff, and community members about the importance of attendance. Perhaps, even more importantly, we will continue to explore ways that we can partner with the community to increase student engagement, connecting students to their learning so that they want to attend school.