School Social Work Services - Student Attendance Protocol

General Information

Attendance Protocol
2016- 2017 School Year
The purpose of the Attendance Protocol is to ensure the efficient use of limited resources and the appropriate administration of Georgia Law O.C.G.A §20-2-690.1 regarding Compulsory School Attendance.

Step One: It is the responsibility of the school to distribute and retrieve the “Parent Notification Form.” The notification form is a legal mandate under O.C.G.A §20-2-690.1(c) to provide to the parent (or other: guardian or other person having control of a child) a written summary of possible consequences and penalties for failing to comply with compulsory school attendance. By law, the Parent Notification Form shall be retained by the school through the end of the school year. If the form is not returned by September 1, the school calls the parent (or other) of any child or children between their sixth and sixteenth birthday to request return of the completed form. If this fails, the school will send the form to the student’s address of record via certified mail - date and retain a photocopy of the back and front of the certified envelop for inclusion in the student’s cumulative folder. The photocopy should be labeled “Parent Notification Form.” In accordance with Georgia Law, this serves as proof that a reasonable effort was made to notify the parent (or other) of the regulations and penalties associated with O.C.G.A §20-2-690.1. If the notification form is returned, the school removes the photocopy from the cumulative folder and replaces it with the completed form. Please note: Due to budgetary and manpower constraints, school social workers will not be able to conduct home visits for the sole purpose of verifying addresses or delivering and/or retrieving school and/or district related forms, property, or documents.

Step Two: Homeroom teacher records daily attendance. With regard to block scheduling, all teachers shall monitor and record attendance. Georgia Law O.C.G.A §20-2-697 states that all public schools shall keep daily records of attendance, verified by the teachers certifying such records, and that failure to carry out these duties constitutes a misdemeanor. Please note: attendance records MUST be accurate and current at all times. It is incumbent upon the attendance clerk to process “excuses” in a timely manner (daily) to ensure that unexcused absences are changed to excused absences (or tardies) as soon as possible. Information reflected in school records must accurately represent the most current information provided by the parent.

Two-A: Schools will use the automated system Connect-Ed to contact parent (or other) when a student is absent. When phone numbers are not functional, homeroom teachers or advisors shall verify changes in contact information to ensure that all parents are reachable by phone. Office personnel shall be alerted to update student record with new phone contact information, and Central Registration will be notified of the change as well.

Step Three: Attendance clerk monitors attendance and identifies students with 3 unexcused absences. Please note: There are no provisions contained within Georgia Law O.C.G.A §20-2-690.1 to regulate excused absences or habitually tardy students. According to provisions provided by the MCSD student attendance policy, excused absences are permissible (see MCSD Behavior Code and Discipline Policy). Questions or concerns associated with absences legitimately excused by the school (i.e. faculty, staff, and administration) shall be referred to and addressed by the school counselor and/or assistant principal. Also note: Pursuant to Georgia Law, suspension days cannot be recorded as unexcused absences. Missed days attributable to either out-of-school suspension or expulsion from the school bus are not to be considered as “unexcused absences”, and therefore will not constitute a violation of the Georgia Compulsory School Attendance Law.

Three-A: Attendance clerk mails the school generated three day letter (see attached copy) to the parent (or other), and retains a copy at the school. The “three day” letter must state specifically the student has 3 or more “unexcused absences.”

Three-B: Students with 3 unexcused absences shall be referred to the school counselor (or graduation coach) for remediation, a process that may include a conference with the student and/or their parent (or others). Please note: if the unexcused absences are due to suspected deprivation (e.g. lack of food, clothing, medical care, parental supervision, etc.), abuse, abandonment, or neglect, the person having first hand knowledge (i.e. the person the student initially told at school) will follow the MCSD policy to refer the student (and family) to the Department of Family and Children Services (DFACS). By law, school social workers are prohibited from investigating allegations of child deprivation, abuse, and/or neglect. Where child abuse or neglect is suspected, mandated reporters (e.g. teachers, administrators, etc.) are bound, by law, to report allegations following the MCSD policy for referral to DFACS.

Step Four: Students with 4 unexcused absences shall be referred to the assistant principal for remediation, a process that may include a conference with the student and/or their parent (or other). Please note: it is lawful for any duly enrolled student, age 6-to-15, to accrue up to 4 unexcused absences at any time during the school year, pursuant to Georgia Law O.C.G.A §20-2-690.1.

Step Five: Students with 5 or more unexcused absences are categorized by The Official Code of Georgia Annotated as “habitually truant”, and will be identified from school attendance records on a weekly basis. A listing of students with 5 or more unexcused absences shall be reviewed by the school social worker and the attendance clerk/school liaison, to determine if extenuating circumstances for any individual would make a referral for truancy inappropriate (e.g. chronic medical condition, excuses anticipated, student not yet returned to school, etc.) All other students with 5 or more unexcused absences shall be referred to the school social worker for remediation of truancy.

Five-A: When making a referral for truancy, the attendance clerk completes the “Request for Services Form,” the principal signs the form, and the following documents shall be made available: parent notification form, student’s computer-generated daily attendance printout (start of school to the present), current grade or progress report, discipline report, all school correspondence mailed or sent to the student’s home of record addressing attendance (e.g. “three-day letter”), and all parent/student contact notes (e.g. school counselor, graduation coach, teacher, assistant principal, principal, etc.) addressing the student’s attendance. Please note: Upon reaching their fifth (5) unexcused absence, “overage learners” (i.e. 16 and older) shall receive the handout “Dropping Out: Facts, Myths, and Consequences.”

Step Six: Upon receiving the completed “Request for Services Form,” the school social worker reviews the student’s cumulative folder, attendance/discipline history, and grade/progress report. The school social worker confers with school personnel (e.g., school counselor, graduation coach, assistant principal, teachers, etc.) to solicit and gather additional assessment data, as needed. After careful review of relevant facts, consideration of various intervention strategies, and identification of potential resources, continuing action for truancy will be determined at the professional discretion of school social worker.

Six-A: School social worker completes and mails the five (5) day truancy letter to parent (or other) for all appropriate truancy referrals, with a copy made available to the school. Please note: When a student is absent, a written excuse is to be brought to school within three (3) school days of the last date of absence, as required by district policy. In consultation with the school social worker, it is at the discretion of the school to accept or reject written excuses submitted outside of the three day time frame.

Six-B: Members of the Attendance Team (e.g. assistant principal, school social worker, school counselor, graduation coach, teachers, etc.) will contact the parent (or other) to problem solve and encourage compliance with the attendance law. If unable to contact the parent (or other) via telephone, or if the parent (or other) fails to respond to the “five day letter” within five (5) business days, the school social worker, or other member of the Attendance Team, may interview the student to ascertain the nature of their unexcused absences. At the conclusion of the interview, the student will receive a copy of their five day letter and be instructed to bring it back to the assistant principal the next school day signed by their parent (or other). At this juncture, the school social worker shall make a determination—based on presenting, credible, and verifiable facts, student interview, and the availability of the parent (or other), as to whether a DFACS referral or home-visit is warranted. If the school social work assessment reveals the absences to be due to suspected deprivation (e.g., lack of food, clothing, medical care, parental supervision, etc.), abuse, abandonment, or neglect, the school social worker will refer the student (and family) to DFACS. When a fact-based/credible concern unrelated to deprivation, abuse, or neglect is identified as negatively influencing attendance, and otherwise impeding the student’s overall school performance, a home visit may be considered to assess the student’s living conditions.

Step Seven: The school social worker monitors the attendance of all students declared “habitually truant”. If the unexcused absences increase by at least two (2), or student accrues their 7th+ unexcused absence, a follow-up letter (i.e., second notification) may be mailed to the parent (or other). A copy of all letters generated by the school social worker shall be made available to the attendance clerk and/or school liaison.

Seven-A: Members of the Attendance Team, including the school social worker, again contact the parent (or other) via telephone for the purpose of encouraging compliance with the attendance law.

Step Eight: The school social worker continues to monitor the attendance of students designated “habitually truant”. When the unexcused absences increase by at least two (2), or student accrues their 9th+ unexcused absence, a conference will be scheduled with the parent (or other), the school social worker, and various members of the Attendance Team to actively identify and involve various in- and out-of system services (i.e., mental health, DFACS, school nurse, student/parent support groups, etc.) to resolve the student’s attendance problem. A written “attendance agreement” will be completed at this juncture.

Eight-A: If the student is on probation, or the parent indicates legal involvement, the school social worker shall contact the Department of Juvenile Justice to determine if there is currently a probation officer who might be consulted. If the student is receiving mental health services, the school counselor (or graduation coach) may confer with the student’s psychiatrist, therapist, or counselor (for this action, signed consent of the parent [or other] is required) to collaborate on obstacles and possible remedies to the truancy.

Step Nine: The school social worker continues to monitor the attendance of students declared “habitually truant.”If all interventions have failed and the unexcused absences continue, the school social worker has the authority and the duty to file proceedings in court to enforce the Compulsory Attendance Law. When the student’s unexcused absences increase by at least two (2) or exceed 15 unexcused days, a truancy petition may be filed in the Court having jurisdiction.

Nine-A: The school social worker mails a certified letter (i.e. third notification) by return receipt, to the home address on record, informing the parent (or other) of the intent of MCSD to pursue legal action for truancy.

Nine-B: The school social worker completes all documents required for the Court having jurisdiction, i.e. truancy petition, complaint forms, warrant cards, and affidavits. The “attendance affidavit” certifying the student’s unexcused absences, together with a current and accurate attendance printout is required by law. It must accompany the truancy petition, and will be submitted in Court as a legal document. The school social worker completes the affidavit, and the principal’s (or designee’s) signature shall be notarized.

Nine-C: The school social worker assures that the court file is complete. This includes: 1) copies of all written correspondence between the school and the parent (or other) regarding attendance (e.g. three-day letter, Parent Notification Form); 2) copies of all letters generated by school social worker (including return receipt from “third notification” [certified letter]) to the student’s home of record; 3) documentation of all contact notes by school personnel (e.g. school counselor, graduation coach, teacher, assistant principal, principal, etc.); 4) documentation of all conferences with parent (or other) by school social worker, including home visit(s), if applicable; 5) attendance agreement signed by parent (or other); 6) information from other agencies consulted; 7) current grades or progress report; 8) discipline report of student.

Step Ten: The Court having jurisdiction shall notify the student and parent (or other) of their court date; the Court will notify the school social worker, and any other school personnel identified as witnesses, by subpoena. The Court hearing takes precedence over other activities which the school social worker or school personnel may have previously scheduled.

Ten-A: The school social worker prepares a brief attendance summary for the Court hearing, to include basic identifying information for the student and parent (or other), and attendance information (which may be updated, if different from the date of filing). Attendance information shall include the number of unexcused absences, the number of days present, and the total number of school days (or days enrolled) during the period to be considered. The summary may also include attendance history from previous school years, extenuating circumstances, or a recommendation for sentencing.

Step Eleven: The school social worker will attend Court and represent MCSD in truancy hearings. In Juvenile Court, the school social worker provides the attendance summary to all parties involved in the action (parent, parent’s attorney, probation officer, MCSD attorney, judge), and serves as a witness to the MCSD attorney who is prosecuting the case. In Municipal Court, the school social worker will provide the attendance summary to all parties involved (parent, parent’s attorney, judge), present the case before the Court, discuss all interventions attempted to alleviate the truancy, and be prepared to respond to questions. In the event the parent pleads not guilty in Municipal Court, school social worker meets with the Solicitor General’s office to provide a copy of the court file, and attends State Court arraignment and hearing, as scheduled, to serve as a witness in the Solicitor General’s prosecution.

Step Twelve: The school social worker continues to monitor the attendance of students designated “habitually truant” and who have been adjudicated in a Court of Law, until the end of the school year or the probation period ends. In most cases, the parent/student will be responsible to provide verification of school attendance to the various probation departments. The school social worker will serve as a liaison between the school and probation to ensure compliance with probation requirements, to keep probation officers apprised if the unexcused absences continue to escalate, and to collaborate on alternative probation sanctions in the event of non-compliance.

O.C.G.A. § 20-2-690.1

GEORGIA CODE

Copyright 2008 by The State of Georgia All rights reserved.

*** Current through the 2008 Regular Session ***

TITLE 20. EDUCATION
CHAPTER 2. ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION
ARTICLE 16. STUDENTS
PART 1. SCHOOL ATTENDANCE
SUBPART 2. COMPULSORY ATTENDANCE

O.C.G.A. § 20-2-690.1 (2008)

§ 20-2-690.1. Mandatory Education for Children between Ages Six (6) and Sixteen (16 )

(a) Mandatory attendance in a public school, private school, or home school program shall be required for children between their sixth and sixteenth birthdays. Such mandatory attendance shall not be required where the child has successfully completed all requirements for a high school diploma.

(b) Every parent, guardian, or other person residing within this state having control or charge of any child or children during the ages of mandatory attendance as required in subsection (a) of this Code section shall enroll and send such child or children to a public school, a private school, or a home study program that meets the requirements for a public school, a private school, or a home study program; and such child shall be responsible for enrolling in and attending a public school, a private school, or a home study program that meets the requirements for a public school, a private school, or a home study program under such penalty for noncompliance with this subsection as is provided in Chapter 11 of Title 15, unless the child's failure to enroll and attend is caused by the child's parent, guardian, or other person, in which case the parent, guardian, or other person alone shall be responsible; provided, however, that tests and physical exams for military service and the National Guard and such other approved absences shall be excused absences. The requirements of this subsection shall apply to a child during the ages of mandatory attendance as required in subsection (a) of this Code section who has been assigned by a local board of education or its delegate to attend an alternative public school program established by that local board of education, including an alternative public school program provided for in Code Section 20-2-154.1, regardless of whether such child has been suspended or expelled from another public school program by that local board of education or its delegate, and to the parent, guardian, or other person residing in this state who has control or charge of such child. Nothing in this Code section shall be construed to require a local board of education or its delegate to assign a child to attend an alternative public school program rather than suspending or expelling the child.

(c) Any parent, guardian, or other person residing in this state who has control or charge of a child or children and who shall violate this Code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be subject to a fine not less than $25.00 and not greater than $100.00, imprisonment not to exceed 30 days, community service, or any combination of such penalties, at the discretion of the court having jurisdiction. Each day's absence from school in violation of this part after the child's school system notifies the parent, guardian, or other person who has control or charge of a child of five unexcused days of absence for a child shall constitute a separate offense. After two reasonable attempts to notify the parent, guardian, or other person who has control or charge of a child of five unexcused days of absence without response, the school system shall send a notice to such parent, guardian, or other person by certified mail, return receipt requested. Public schools shall provide to the parent, guardian, or other person having control or charge of each child enrolled in public school a written summary of possible consequences and penalties for failing to comply with compulsory attendance under this Code section for children and their parents, guardians, or other persons having control or charge of children. The parent, guardian, or other person who has control or charge of a child or children shall sign a statement indicating receipt of such written statement of possible consequences and penalties; children who are age ten years or older by September 1 shall sign a statement indicating receipt of such written statement of possible consequences and penalties. After two reasonable attempts by the school to secure such signature or signatures, the school shall be considered to be in compliance with this subsection if it sends a copy of the statement, via certified mail, return receipt requested, to such parent, guardian, other person who has control or charge of a child, or children. Public schools shall retain signed copies of statements through the end of the school year.

(d) Local school superintendents in the case of private schools or home study programs and visiting teachers and attendance officers in the case of public schools shall have authority and it shall be their duty to file proceedings in court to enforce this subpart.

(e) An unemancipated minor who is older than the age of mandatory attendance as required in subsection (a) of this Code section who has not completed all requirements for a high school diploma who wishes to withdraw from school shall have the written permission of his or her parent or legal guardian prior to withdrawing. Prior to accepting such permission, the school principal or designee shall convene a conference with the child and parent or legal guardian within two school days of receiving notice of the intent of the child to withdraw from school. The principal or designee shall make a reasonable attempt to share with the student and parent or guardian the educational options available, including the opportunity to pursue a general educational development (GED) diploma and the consequences of not having earned a high school diploma, including lower lifetime earnings, fewer jobs for which the student will be qualified, and the inability to avail oneself of higher educational opportunities. Every local board of education shall adopt a policy on the process of voluntary withdrawal of unemancipated minors who are older than the mandatory attendance age. The policy shall be filed with the Department of Education no later than January 1, 2007. The Department of Education shall provide annually to all local school superintendents model forms for the parent or guardian signature requirement contained in this subsection and updated information from reliable sources relating to the consequences of withdrawing from school without completing all requirements for a high school diploma. Such form shall include information relating to the opportunity to pursue a general educational development (GED) diploma and the consequences of not having earned a high school diploma, including lower lifetime earnings, fewer jobs for which the student will be qualified, and the inability to avail oneself of higher educational opportunities. Each local school superintendent shall provide such forms and information to all of its principals of schools serving grades six through twelve for the principals to use during the required conference with the child and parent or legal guardian.



SCHOOL LETTERHEAD

Date: _______________

Dear Parent(s):

When a student is absent, a written excuse is to be brought to school explaining the reason for the absence. This excuse is to be brought to school within three school days of each absence, as required by school district policy. It is the responsibility of the parent, guardian or person in charge of a child or children to ensure that the school receives each and every written excuse.

Children may be temporarily excused from school (1) when they are personally ill and their attendance in school would endanger their health or the health of others; (2) when in the immediate family there is a serious illness or death which would reasonably necessitate absence from school; (3) on special and recognized religious holidays observed by their faith; (4) when mandated by order of governmental agencies (e.g., pre-induction physical examination for military service or court order); and (5) principal’s approval of attendance at school related experiences.

Every student receives a Student Behavior Code and Disciplinary Handbook, which describes the attendance policy adopted by the school district. It is the responsibility of the student and parent, guardian or person in charge to read and understand the contents of the handbook. Also, for the purpose of monitoring school and class attendance, it is the responsibility of the parent, guardian or person in control to initiate regular contact with school personnel to ensure that their child attends school and class regularly.

Our records indicate that your child, ___________________________________________, has __________ unexcused absences. In accordance with Georgia Law O.C.G.A §20-2-690.1, any student of compulsory school age with five unexcused absences will be referred to the school social worker. Georgia Law O.C.G.A §20-2-690.1(c) provides for penalties for any parent, guardian or person in charge of a child or children who shall violate §20-2-690.1(a). Penalties imposed by the court having jurisdiction can include fines, imprisonment and/or community service.

Please immediately provide the school with written documentation to explain your child’s unexcused absences.

Sincerely,

Principal