ASPIRA of PA Schools requires that school age students enrolled in John B. Stetson Charter School attend school regularly, in accordance with state laws. The educational program offered by the school is predicated upon the presence of the student and requires continuity of instruction and classroom participation in order for students to achieve academic standards and consistent educational progress.
Attendance shall be required of all students enrolled in the school during the days and hours that school is in session, except that a principal may excuse a student for temporary absences upon receipt of satisfactory evidence of mental, physical, or other urgent reasons that may reasonably cause the student's absence. Urgent reasons shall be strictly construed and does not permit irregular attendance.
ASPIRA Schools of PA consider the following conditions to constitute reasonable cause for absence from school:
3.Recovery from accident.
4.Required court attendance.
5.Death in family.
6.Educational tours and trips, with prior approval.
7.Authorized school activities.
All absences shall be treated as unlawful/unexcused until the principal receives a written excuse explaining the reason(s) for the absence, to be submitted within three (3) calendar days of the absence. Failure to provide a written excuse within three (3) days will result in the absence being counted permanently as unlawful/unexcused.
All absences of three (3) or more consecutive school days shall be supported by a physician’s statement verifying the illness.
The John B. Stetson Charter School Principal/Designee shall report to appropriate authorities inclusive of both the Department of Education and the School District of Philadelphia infractions of the law regarding the attendance of students below the age of seventeen (17). The John B. Stetson Charter School Principal/Designee shall issue notice to those parents/guardians who fail to comply with the requirements of compulsory attendance that such infractions will be prosecuted according to law.
Attendance need not always be within school buildings. A student shall be considered in attendance if present at any place where school is in session by authority of John B. Stetson Charter School; the student is receiving approved tutorial instruction, or health or therapeutic services; the student is engaged in an approved and properly supervised independent study, work-study or career education program; the student is receiving approved homebound instruction.
The absence and/or early dismissal of students shall not be granted for private instruction in activities such as music, dancing, etc.
John B. Stetson Charter School will recognize other justifiable absences for part of the school day. These shall include medical or dental appointments, court appearances, family emergencies, authorized school activities, and other legitimate reasons determined by the building principal.
John B. Stetson Charter School shall excuse the following students from the requirements of attendance upon request and with the required approval:
1. On certification by a physician or submission of other satisfactory evidence and on approval of John B. StetsonCharter School, children who are unable to attend school or apply themselves to study for mental, physical or other reasons that preclude regular attendance.
2. Students attending a home education program in accordance with law.
3. Students fifteen (15) or sixteen (16) years of age whose enrollment in private trade or business schools has been approved.
4. Students fifteen (15) years of age and fourteen (14) years of age who have completed the highest elementary grade, engaged in farm work or private domestic service under duly issued permits.
5. Students sixteen (16) years of age regularly employed during the school session and holding a lawfully issued employment certificate.
Religious Holidays And Religious Instruction
Upon written request by a parent/guardian, an absence for observance of a student's religion on a day approved by John B. Stetson Charter School as a religious holiday shall be excused.
John B. Stetson Charter School shall, upon written request of the parents/guardians, release from attendance a student participating in a religious instruction program. Such instruction shall not require the child's absence from school for more than thirty-six (36) hours per school year, and its organizers must inform John B. Stetson Charter School of the child's attendance record. ASPIRA of PA Schools shall not provide transportation to religious instruction.
No student so excused shall be deprived of an award, eligibility to compete for an award, the opportunity to make up a test or work missed, or penalized in any way due to an absence for a religious holiday or religious instruction.
John B. Stetson Charter School may excuse a student from school attendance to participate in an educational tour or trip not sponsored by ASPIRA of PA Schools if the following conditions are met:
1. The parent/guardian submits a written request for excusal prior to the absence.
2. The student's participation has been approved by the Principal or designee.
3. The adult directing and supervising the tour or trip is acceptable to the parents/guardians and the School Principal.
John B. Stetson Charter School may limit the number and duration of tours or trips for which excused absences may be granted to a student during the school term.
The Principal or designee shall annually notify students, parents/guardians, and staff about John B. Stetson Charter School’s attendance policy by publishing such policy in student/parent handbooks, ASPIRA of PA School web site, and other efficient methods.
The Superintendent or designee shall develop administrative procedures necessary for the implementation of this policy which:
1. Ensure a school session that conforms to requirements of state law and regulations.
2. Govern the keeping of attendance records in accordance with the law.
3. Distribute annually to staff, students, and parents/guardians school policies and school rules and regulations governing student attendance, absences, and excusals.
4. Impose on truant student’s appropriate incremental disciplinary measures for infractions of school rules, but no penalty may have an irredeemably negative effect on the student's record beyond that which naturally follows absence from classroom learning experiences.
5. Identify the habitually truant, investigate the causes of truant behavior, and consider modification of the student's educational program to meet particular needs and interests.
6. Ensure that students legally absent have an opportunity to make up work.
In accordance with the Pennsylvania State Truancy Law enacted November of 2016 the following provisions will now be in place:
Student truancy will be defined as “three (3) or more school days of unexcused absence during the current school year by a child subject to [the] compulsory school attendance [law].”
Habitual Truancy will be defined as “six (6) or more school days of unexcused absences during the current school year by a child subject to [the] compulsory school attendance [law].”
The procedures for parent notification and engagement are as follows:
Parents or guardians will be notified in in writing within ten (10) school days of the child’s third unexcused absence that the child has been truant _
• This notification will include a description of the consequences if the child becomes “habitually truant.”
• Will be in the mode and language of communication preferred by the parent;
• And will include the offer of an attendance improvement conference.
• If the child continues to incur additional absences after this notice has been issued, ASPIRA schools must offer a student attendance improvement conference.
Procedure when a child is habitually truant:
Under fifteen (15) years of age. ASPIRA schools must refer the child to either: (1) a school-based or community-based attendance improvement program or (2) the county children and youth agency (CYS) for services or possible disposition as a dependent child under the Juvenile Act. Additionally, the school may file a citation against the parent of a habitually truant child under fifteen (15) in a magisterial district court.
Fifteen (15) years of age and older. ASPIRA Schools must either: (1) refer the child to a school-based or community-based attendance improvement program or (2) file a citation against the student or parent in a magisterial district court. If the child incurs additional absences after a school refers that child to an attendance improvement program or refuses to participate in an attendance improvement program, the school may refer the child to the local CYS agency for possible disposition as a dependent child.
Mandatory attendance improvement conferences will be provided before court referral. ASPIRA Schools must make meaningful attempts to encourage parent participation in attendance improvement conferences by providing advance written notice and attempts to communicate via telephone. The school must hold the conference even if the parent declines to participate or fails to attend. There is no legal requirement for either child or parent to attend an attendance improvement conference however the school must document the outcome of any attendance improvement conference in a written improvement plan. Schools may not take further legal action to address unexcused absences until after the date of the scheduled attendance improvement conference.
The new law defines “school attendance improvement conference” as a “conference where the child’s absences and reasons for the absences are examined in an effort to improve attendance, with or without additional services.” The law requires schools to invite the following individuals to the conference:
The person in parental relation to the child.
Other individuals identified by the person in parental relation who may be a resource (e.g. a grandparent, sibling, family friend, advocate, community member, etc.).
Appropriate school personnel.
Recommended service providers (e.g. case managers, behavioral health providers, probation officers, children, and youth practitioners, etc.).
Finally, students in ASPIRA Schools cannot be disciplined for truant behavior in a way that excludes them from the regular education classroom. Students will not receive exclusionary consequences for truant behavior; an attendance meeting will take place prior to any referral to a legal entity.
ASPIRA schools cannot expel, suspend, transfer, or reassign a child to a disciplinary placement such as AEDY for truant behavior.
The new law removes “habitual truancy” as a ground to re-assign a “disruptive student” to an AEDY program under 24 P.S. § 19-1901-C(5). Thus, school districts may no longer transfer students to AEDY programs for habitual truancy.
Discretion for Judges
The new law provides local judges with considerable discretion to impose appropriate penalties in individual cases. For instance, judges now have discretion on whether to forward a student’s conviction for truancy to the Department of Transportation (DOT) for automatic license suspension.
Increased fines up to $750.
The new law significantly increases the amount of money a judge may fine a student or parent for habitual truancy. The law states that a person convicted of habitual truancy may be fined: (1) up to $300 per offense, with court costs, for the first offense; (2) up to $500 for the second offense; and (3) up to $750 for a third and any and all subsequent offenses.*
*Importantly, the new law defines “offense” as “each citation filed under Section 1333.1 for a violation of the requirement for compulsory school attendance . . . regardless of the number of unexcused absences averred in the citation.”
Stetson's lead Truancy Officer Joanne Esquilin can be reached at JEsquilin@stetson.aspirapa.org.
Download a copy of Stetson's Student Truancy Policy Below
Memorandum of Understanding with Law Enforcement Agency