Student Attendance Protocol - 2012
Decatur County Schools
This document includes a protocol for addressing and decreasing the incidence of truancy in Decatur County. This protocol reflects a partnership among various local agencies, offices, and individuals to promote the educational progress of children and families in Decatur County.
This partnership includes, but is not limited to, representatives of the following entities:
Decatur County Superior Court
State Court of Decatur County
Decatur County Juvenile Court
Decatur County District Attorney’s Office
Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice
Decatur County Board of Education Representatives
Decatur County Board of Education Attorney
Decatur County Sheriff’s Office
Decatur County Department of Family and Children Services
Decatur County Health Department
Decatur County Family Connection Collaborative
Director of Bainbridge Public Safety
Decatur County Mental Health Department
The purpose of the committee is to make recommendations to the Decatur County Board of Education regarding attendance policy and procedures, as well as to create guidelines for collaboration between local and state agencies having an interest or function related to educational achievement and school attendance in Decatur County.
The Student Attendance Protocol Committee has agreed upon procedures, which are intended to allow the reduction of truancy at the individual, family, and community levels. It is understood, however, that these procedures are general guidelines, and extenuating circumstances may be considered, as allowable by law, for each student and family. In addition, it is understood that each state and local agency involved must first adhere to its own policies, which were considered in the development of this protocol.
Tardies and Early Checkout
The Student Attendance Protocol Committee is operational under authority of the chief superior court judge as defined in O.C.G.A. 20-2-690.2. Following adoption of this written protocol and filing with the Georgia Department of Education (GADOE), the committee will meet quarterly during its first year and twice annually thereafter for the purpose of evaluating compliance and effectiveness, and to modify the protocol as appropriate.
Definition of Terms
Tardy to School:
Any student arriving at school following the ringing bell, chime, or other audible signal established by the Principal and intended to indicate the start of the school day. Any student who is on school property but is not in his or her assigned classroom or other authorized area following the bell, chime, or other audible signal will be considered tardy to school.
Tardy to Class:
A student is “tardy to class” when he/she arrives to class following the ringing bell, chime or other audible signal indicating the beginning of instructional time.
A tardy resulting from events beyond a student’s control shall be determined excused by the Principal or designee. Events may include an accident, road closed due to an accident, area power outage, late bus, or other incidents. Documentation is required to excuse a tardy.
Incidents including over-sleeping, heavy traffic, errands, delays at a train crossing, or similar excuses determined by the Principal or designee as unacceptable are unexcused. Documentation will not obligate the Principal or designee to excuse an unexcused tardy.
Leaving school prior to the end of instructional time and/or the end of the official school day.
Official School Start/End Time:
- Excused: Early checkouts for emergency, illness, or other reasons that the Principal deems necessary or reasonable. Documentation is required to excuse an early dismissal. Records will be kept at each school to document the number of days a student misses due to early checkouts. Excessive incidents of unexcused early checkout may result in disciplinary action or referral to the SST as the Principal deems necessary.
- Unexcused: Early checkouts for reasons other than those approved by the Principal. Excessive incidents of unexcused early checkout may result in disciplinary action or referral to the SST as the Principal deems necessary.
The time designated by the principal and advertised to students and parents as the official start or end of the school day. Correct time will be the time as determined accurate by the school principal, indicated on a designated school clock, and displayed in a prominent location.
Student Support Team (SST):
An interdisciplinary group that uses a systematic process to address learning, behavior, and/or attendance problems of K-12 students in a school.
Unexcused Tardies and Early Checkouts:
Consequences and Penalties for Unexcused Tardies/Early Checkouts
- Students accumulating three (3) days of unexcused tardies to school will receive a referral to the Principal or Principal’s designee for violation of Board Policy JBD: Absences and Excuses.
- At the school system’s discretion, students establishing a pattern of early checkouts may be referred to the Principal or Principal’s designee for disciplinary or other appropriate action.
- Students leaving early or arriving late to class may be counted absent from the class or classes missed if they are not present more than 15 minutes of the entire instructional period.
The Principal or Principal’s designee may assign consequences and penalties for unexcused tardies and/or early checkouts that may include, but are not limited to the following:
- Third Tardy: Written notification to notify parent(s), guardian(s) or other person(s) having control or charge of the student of possible consequences for continued tardies.
- Fourth to Ninth Tardies:
Elementary and Middle School Students: Referral(s) to the Principal or the Principal’s designee for disciplinary consequences (detention for each tardy), counselor’s referral, social work referral or other appropriate action.
High School Students: Upon a student’s fourth (4th) tardy, a disciplinary referral will be made to the Principal or Principal’s designee. Consequences may include loss of driving privileges, detention, in-school suspension, or other action in accordance with local school system policy.
- Ten or More Tardies: Ten or more tardies may result in immediate referral to support agencies outside the school system as the Principal deems appropriate. Among these agencies are the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS), law enforcement, Juvenile Court, Family and/or Youth Connections, or other external agencies.
Definition of Terms
Truant: Any child subject to compulsory attendance who during the school calendar year has more than five days of unexcused absences.
Exception for Suspension: School days missed as a result of an out of school suspension shall not count as unexcused days for the purpose of determining student truancy.
Local board of education shall adopt policies and procedures excusing students from school under the following circumstances, as a minimum:
Grades and Absences:
- Personal illness (Excessive or extended absences may require an excuse from medical doctor)
- Circumstances where attendance in school endangers a student’s health or the health of others
- Serious illness in a student’s immediate family
- A court order or an order by a governmental agency, including pre-induction physical examinations for service in the armed forces, mandating absence from school
- Observing religious holidays, necessitating absence from school
- Conditions rendering attendance impossible or hazardous to student health or safety
- Local boards of education may allow a period not to exceed one day for registering to vote or voting in a public election
- Local boards of education shall count students present when they are serving as pages of the Georgia General Assembly
Final student course grades shall not be penalized because of absences if the following conditions are met.
Absence Reduction Plan:
- Absences are justified and validated for excusable reasons.
- Make up work for excused absences were completed satisfactorily. Local boards of education are not required to provide make-up work for unexcused absences.
The board of education adopts the following policies and/or procedures to reduce unexcused absences.
Parental Notification: Statement of Receipt
- The school system will provide the parent(s), guardian(s), or other person(s) having control or charge of each student enrolled in public school with a written summary of possible con sequences and penalties for failing to comply with compulsory attendance
- By September 1 of each school year or within 30 school days of a student's enrollment in the school system, the parent(s), guardian(s), or other person(s) having control or charge of such student must sign a statement indicating receipt of the written statement of possible consequences for non-compliance with local school compulsory attendance policy and protocol.
Consequences and Penalties for Violation of Compulsory Attendance
The Principal or Principal's designee may assign consequences and penalties for unexcused absences and/or early checkouts at any time if he/she deems necessary. Consequences and penalties may include, but are not limited to the following:
Five Unexcused Absences in the School Calendar Year:
- Schools will notify the parent(s), guardian(s) or other person(s) who has control or charge of the student when such student has accumulated five unexcused absences in the school calendar year.
- Notice of five accumulated absences will include notification of the penalties and consequences of such absences.
- After five unexcused absences in the school calendar year, each subsequent absence will constitute a separate offense.
- Schools will make two reasonable attempts by phone, conference, letter, email, or other appropriate means to notify the parent(s), guardian(s) or other person(s) who has control or charge of the student When five unexcused absences in an academic year have occurred and of the penalties and consequences for violation of compulsory attendance.
- If two reasonable attempts to notify the parent(s), guardian(s) or other person(s) who has control or charge of the student have been unsuccessful, the school will send written notice via certified mail with return receipt requested. Such notification will include a reminder of previous notice to the parent(s), guardian(s), or other person(s) having control or charge of each student enrolled in public school containing a written summary of possible consequences and penalties for failing to comply with compulsory attendance.
Six or More Unexcused Absences in an Academic Year
Six Unexcused Absences: Students accumulating six (6) days of unexcused absences in a semester will receive a referral to the Principal or administrative designee for violation of Board Policy JBD: Absences and Excuses. Upon a student's accumulation of six (6) or more unexcused absences in the school calendar year, a student's homeroom teacher will make a referral to the Principal or designee for Student Support Team (SST) intervention. Prior to the first SST meeting, a school social worker, school nurse or other appropriate staff member will attempt contact with the student and parent(s), guardian(s) or other person(s) who has control or charge of the student.
The school social worker will participate as part of the SST to assist with the development of interventions and
strategies for improvement of the student's school attendance.
Ten Unexcused Absences: Upon a student's accumulation often (10) unexcused absences in the school calendar year, the school social Worker will refer the student and parent to Decatur County Truancy Education and Mediation (TEAM) for contracted participation in the TEAM truancy diversion program. The school social worker will serve to coordinate efforts between the school SST and TEAM in monitoring attendance.
Violation of TEAM Truancy Diversion Contract or refusal to participate in the TEAM truancy diversion program may result in immediate referral to the appropriate court, including but not limited to one or more of the following:
- Students ages six (6) to seventeen (17) and their parent(s), guardian(s), or other person(s) having control or charge of the student to the Juvenile Court for possible Protective Order or other appropriate disposition.
- Parent(s), guardian(s), or other person(s) having control or charge of students ages six (6) to seventeen (17) to State Court for Failure to Comply with Compulsory Attendance.
Student Attendance Protocol
- School System Procedures
Decatur County Board of Education will monitor student attendance daily. Codes for attendance used in the student records database (Infinite Campus) will be consistent between schools to indicate excused absences, unexcused absences, excused tardies, unexcused tardies, early Withdrawals, in-school suspensions, and out-of-school suspensions. The Decatur County Board of Education will adopt policy and procedure outlining the specific steps to be taken to monitor and address student attendance. Each school will create a building level procedure in accordance with this policy.
Upon enrollment and registration each school year, parents and guardians will be given notice of State Compulsory Attendance Law pursuant to O.C.G.A. Code 20-2-690.1 and the Decatur County Board of Education school attendance policy JBD. The school will make reasonable efforts to ensure receipt and comprehension of the policy by requesting signatures from parents/guardians that this notice was received and understood. At the middle and high school, students will also receive this notice and provide a signature. At the elementary school, this notice will be received by all students who have reached age ten (l0) or above by September l of that school year. This notice should also be included in each school's Code of Conduct.
Each school will utilize the Student Support Team (SST) to address attendance concerns. An SST meeting that is convened for the purpose of discussing attendance will be chaired by each school's Principal or other designated Administrator and include as its members a rotating committee of faculty having direct contact with the parents/guardians of or providing direct service to the specific student(s) to be discussed as well as the School Social Worker. School Resource Officers will also be invited to participate, as appropriate. Each school's SST will meet as needed and be responsible for implementing and monitoring policy to reduce tardy days, early withdrawals, and truancy. Parents/ guardians shall be invited to and encouraged to attend these meetings.
Daily attempts will be made to call the parents/guardians of absent students. In cases known to involve joint or shared custody or guardianship of a student, efforts should be made to contact all individuals with custodial rights. This principal shall also apply to steps mentioned hereinafter.
Attendance letters will be sent at five (5) unexcused absences.
After five (5) unexcused absences:
- A referral will be made to the SST, which will assess the student's absences and determine strategies to address attendance, including the possibility of referral to the School Social Worker. Each school will take reasonable steps to ensure that parents/guardians are, in Writing, invited to and encouraged to attend these meetings. Students may also participate in SST meetings, as deemed appropriate by the SST.
- In addition to notice of the SST meeting, two (2) reasonable attempts will be made by the school to notify parents/ guardians, in writing, of attendance to date (absences, tardies, and early check-outs), compulsory attendance law, and potential consequences and penalties for failure to comply. A signature of receipt of this notice will be obtained, and kept on file for the remainder of the school year. Students age ten (IO) and older will also receive a copy of the notice and provide a signature of receipt.
- First attempts to meet this requirement shall be made in conjunction with the notice of an SST meeting and/or during an SST meeting when the Parent/guardian(s) are in attendance.
- After two (2) unsuccessful reasonable attempts to provide notice to parent(s)/guardian(s) and obtain signatures, notice shall be sent via certified mail, with return receipt requested. The school should keep a copy of the notice mailed. Once the receipt is obtained, it will be kept on file by the school, attached to the copy of the notice.
At ten (10) unexcused absences, the SST will review the case again and make a referral to the School Social Worker, if a referral has not been made previously.
The School Social Worker will:
- Review available information from the SST and parent contacts from school staff.
- Meet with the student(s) and attempt a home visit within no more than two business days from the date of the receipt of the referral to further explore reasons for absence and offer assistance to the student and family for addressing the causes of absences. Examples of such assistance would include, but is not limited to:
Upon further investigation, determine the need for immediate referral of:
- Brief individual or group therapeutic intervention with students at school
- Referral to public or private mental health or counseling services
- Referral to public or private medical or dental services
- Referral to public assistance programs
- Referral to the school's Student Support Team
- In-home support facilitated by the School Social Worker
- Referral to outside social service or counseling providers for intensive in-home support
- Referral to Department of Family and Children services, if deemed necessary.
- Students ages ten (10) to sixteen (16) to Juvenile Court for truancy
- Parent(s)/guardian(s) of students ages six (6) to sixteen (16) to the Magistrate Court for Deprivation, or to Superior Court for Failure to Comply with Compulsory Attendance
- Refer to the Decatur County Truancy Reduction Program in Appendix l
In most cases, Court referral will be made at this point or at the next unexcused absence. The family will be referred to the Department of Family and Children Services for suspicion or indicators of abuse and/or neglect. If a referral is necessary, the local Child Abuse Protocol will take precedence regarding further action.
Continue to monitor student attendance Weekly and provide support related to the student and family's educational needs once a referral is made to a court or to the Department of Family and Children Services.
Review end of year attendance records with each school's Principal and determine a list of active referrals for the beginning ofthe next school year.
In general, students known to be on probation for truancy are monitored for attendance concerns on a monthly basis the next school year.
Criminal Prosecution for Violation of School Attendance Law
O.C.G.A. 20-2-690.1 requires any person in this State who has control or charge of a child between the ages of six and sixteen to enroll and send that child to school, including public, private, and home schooling.
A child is responsible to attend school and is subject to adjudication in Decatur County Juvenile Court as an unruly child for violation of this statute. If a parent, guardian or other person who has control or charge of the child causes the child's absence, then that person, and not the child, is in violation of this statute. Such a violation is a misdemeanor and carries a penalty of up to $100 fine and 30 days in jail for each violation. The law specifies that each day's absence constitutes a separate offense.
For purposes of this Protocol, the term "parent" may include any adult who has charge and control over the child, including a biological, adoptive, foster, or step-parent, a guardian or any other person who has control or charge of the child's attendance at school. In this regard, two parents residing in the same household with the child are equally responsible for the child's attendance at school.
- Filing Juvenile Complaints
A juvenile complaint should be filed in the Juvenile Court of Decatur County against a child who is habitually and without justification truant from school. Such a child is “unruly.”
For the purposes of this Protocol, habitual truancy or absence is defined as six (6) or more days of unexcused absence from school. At this point the child’s circumstances will be reviewed by the SST, to which the parent will be invited to attend. At this review the following options will be discussed:
- Refer the child and/or parent to the appropriate social services
- Request further medical documentation if appropriate
- File an “unruly child” complaint with the Juvenile Court of Decatur County
- Seek a protective order for the parent from the Juvenile Court
- Seek a criminal warrant for the parent from the Magistrate Court of Decatur County for Deprivation
The School Social Worker will be responsible for obtaining and monitoring compliance with the recommendations of the SST.
Juvenile Justice Procedures
Prosecution in Superior Court
- Intake Process for Juvenile Complaints
- All truancy complaints will be forwarded to the Intake Officer of the Department of Juvenile Justice for Decatur County. The Intake Officer will process complaints as follows:
- Complaints will be entered into the Juvenile Tracking System and any past history will be assessed.
- The Intake Officer may contact the School Social Worker for any further pertinent information.
- The complaint may be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office, accompanied by any legal history and brief summary of involvement with the Department of Juvenile Justice. This may include offense history, placement history, a summary of any past or current interventions, as well as current information.
- Truancy complaints will receive immediate attention and be informally adjusted in ten (10) days.
- Adjudication and Disposition
- A youth may be placed on Probation for Truancy by the Juvenile Court Judge upon adjudication of a Truancy charge. At this time, the District Attorney and/or the Department of Juvenile Justice may request a Protective Order to ensure that the parent(s)/guardian(s) actively assist in the youth's compliance with Conditions of Probation and the youth's attendance at school.
- The Probation Officer will monitor the youth's attendance, at a minimum, on a weekly basis. Further unexcused absences from school by youth will result in immediate sanction by the Department of Juvenile Justice, including possible Violation of Probation. Upon adjudication for Truancy-related Violation of Probation, the Juvenile Court Judge will determine what further action or intervention is appropriate.
- Judicial truancy reviews will be held on a monthly basis from the date of the initial Probation Order for Truancy-related Probation cases. These reviews will assess the youth's attendance at school and effectiveness of any services that may be involved to assist youth and/or family. All patties involved should be prepared to report on youth's progress at these reviews.
- A Probation Order may be terminated by the Juvenile Court Judge prior to the expiration date if youth's attendance and/or progress have reached a level satisfactory to all parties involved.
After referral is made to the truancy reduction program, and it is determined that the parent is the direct cause of the child’s absence, a warrant for violation of OCGA 20-2- 690.1 should be sought against the parent. In other circumstances, the SST may, but is not required to, take into account the following considerations when recommending a criminal warrant is sought for the parent of a child:
Notification to Parent(s)
- The child is under the age of 13 years.
- The child has an illness for which the parent has not been diligent in pursuing medical attention or in seeking financial assistance to procure the proper medical attention.
- The parent has not actively sought assistance from community social services and resources to assist in getting the child to school.
- The parent is absent from the home or neglectful to an extent that it hinders the child's willingness or ability to attend school.
- The child is a deprived child.
The child and parent must comply with the SST’s recommendations. Failure of the child or parent to comply with the recommendations, including further unexcused absences from school, will result in juvenile adjudication of the child and/or criminal prosecution of the parent. In any event, if the child accumulates ten (10) or more unexcused absences in a semester, the School Social Worker will file a juvenile complaint and/or apply, via the School Resource Officer, for a criminal warrant for violation of mandatory school attendance laws. When a parent is prosecuted, regular school attendance will be assigned as a condition of bond.
Notification to the parent of a truant child shall include notice of an SST review and information about attendance law and the penalties that may occur as a result of the child's continued absence. After two unsuccessful attempts to serve such notice and obtain signature of receipt, notification should be sent via certified mail, with return receipt requested, to the parent and should contain the following language:
"Decisions as to appropriate action recommendations will be made at an SST Review that could include recommendations for criminal prosecution of you or your child, Parent(s) may be charged with a misdemeanor if they are causing the child's absence from school. The penalty can be up to $100 fine and up to 30 days in jail for each day the child has an unexcused absence from school,"
Monitoring the Protocol
- Law Enforcement
Each school in Decatur County has access to, either on-site or within minimal driving distance, an employee of the Decatur County Sheriff’s Department or the Bainbridge Public Safety Department. These individuals are certified peace officers designated as “School Resource Officers.” In support of improved school attendance, the School Resource Officers shall:
- Attend SST meetings, as appropriate.
- Forward complaints against parents directly to the Sheriff' s Department and/or relate City Public Safety Department regarding compliance with mandatory attendance law.
- Honor any applicable school-related transportation orders issued by a court.
- Public Health
Each school in Decatur County has licensed staff available to serve students via on-site school “clinics.” These personnel are hired by the Decatur County Board of Education. The School Health Nurses shall:
The Decatur County Health Department is an integral partner in community health related to school readiness, attendance, and success. The Decatur County Health Department shall:
- Be responsible, in cooperation with other staff, for the final determination at each school regarding when a child should be sent home early for the day, due to health related concerns.
- Be available to parents for preliminary verification to the school of illness pending an appointment with a physician and advocate with physician's offices for timely appointments.
- Follow any orders written by students' physicians regarding medication or other medical treatment to be provided during school hours.
- Work in conjunction with teachers, school administrators, and the school social worker to promote general health and safety for students, school staff, and the community.
- Continue to support and promote the Decatur County School Nurses
- Provide immunizations and immunization records required for school enrollment
- Provide various medical, dental, and prescription services, referrals, and education to students and families in Decatur County to promote personal and community health.
- Mental Health
The Decatur County Mental Health provides crucial support for the mental, physical and emotional well being of students and their families, including individual and group sessions on-site at the schools or at the Mental Health office. In support of this Protocol, Decatur County Mental Health shall:
- Notify and/or refer student clients to the School Counselor or Social Worker when efforts to conduct individual or group sessions at school repeatedly fail due to absences.
- Coordinate and host regular Inter-Agency Staffing Committee meetings, which facilitate support and treatment planning for at-risk youth, including students who are truant.
- Attend court proceedings, when appropriate, for cases involving truancy and support any court orders for treatment of emotional or family issues contributing to absences.
- Offer clinical support, when possible and appropriate, to any truancy prevention or treatment programs instituted.
- Department of Family and Children Services
The Decatur County Department of Family and Children Services often provides social services to the families of tmant students. In support of this Protocol, the Decatur County Department of Family and Children's Services shall:
- Accept and consider information related to school attendance, behavior, and performance in reports and investigations of other suspected abuse and/or neglect.
- Address school attendance in departmental case plans and safety plans,
- Ensure school enrollment and regular attendance for students in emergency shelter care, temporary guardianship arranged by the department, or foster care.
- Verify involvement of the School Social Worker when available attendance information indicates more than ten (10) unexcused absences.
- Attend court proceedings, when necessary, for cases involving truancy and/or complaints against parents related to mandatory school attendance. Subpoena(s) should be issued to the appropriate Case Manager and/or Investigator when participation by the Department of Family and Children Services is desired.
To ensure that these written protocol procedures are followed, the Protocol Committee will meet quarterly for a year, which will begin on the date of the protocol's adoption. The Protocol Committee will then meet bi- annually, as required by law. The Committee's goal will be to improve communication between agencies, encourage inter-agency cooperation, and update the protocol as necessary, Each participating agency shall monitor and evaluate compliance with this protocol and, as needed, recommend protocol revision and implementation that best meets the needs of the community and complies with Federal, State, and Local statutes, as well as agency policy.
Steps to Prevent Truancy
Various measures are currently being explored to address truancy from a prevention perspective.
- The Department of Juvenile Justice in conjunction with the Decatur County Juvenile Court, The Decatur County Mental Health, and Decatur County Schools are working together to develop a plan to work on preventing truancy.
The Decatur County Commission on Children and Youth (CCCY) is a collaborative partnership Working to address the educational, social and physical needs of local children and youth. The Commission serves as the local Family Connection collaborative with dedicated members representing a cross-section of the community.
The specific goals of the Commission for Children and Youth are to increase the number of students who graduate from high school on time, to decrease the number of teen pregnancies and to decrease the school drop out rate.
- Local businesses, clubs, and civic organizations will be asked to consider developing incentive or even scholarship programs for those students whose grades and attendance exhibit significant improvement.
- Drivers Licenses Denial
The Decatur County Board of Education requires the local school superintendent or the superintendent's designee to use his or her best, efforts including certified mail, to notify students age 14 and older when the student has only three absences remaining before violating the state's attendance requirements pursuant to O.C.G.A. 40-5-22 regarding the denial of driver's permits and licenses. Decatur County Schools will be responsible for certifying that students enrolled in public schools and in home schools in its district satisfy the attendance requirements. They will do this by using the Certificate of Attendance form. Decatur County Schools will be responsible for making this form available to private schools in Georgia in which students living in the public school district are enrolled. The private schools will complete the forms.
- The Central Office of Decatur County Schools is required by this law to report information regarding non-compliance to the Department of Motor and Vehicle Safety through a process developed jointly with the Department of Education. Decatur County Schools must report this information from the public schools in its district, from private schools attended by students who reside in the public school district, and from home schools in the public school district. A non-compliant student is one who:
- Has dropped out of school without graduating and has remained out of school for ten consecutive school days;
- Has more than ten school days of unexcused absences in any semester or combination of two consecutive quarters; or
- Has been suspended from school for:
- Threatening, striking, or causing bodily harm to a teacher or other school personnel;
- Possession or sale of drugs or alcohol on school property;
- Possession or use of a Weapon on school property. For purposes of this subparagraph, the term "Weapon" shall be defined in accordance with Code Section 16-11-l27.l but shall not include any part of an archaeological or cultural exhibit brought to school in connection with a school project.
- Any sexual offense prohibited under Chapter 6 of Title 16; or
- Causing substantial physical or visible bodily harm to or seriously disfiguring another person, including another student. OACGVA § 40-5-22 (a.l)