New truancy guidelines for Tennessee schools

NASHVILLE (WATE) – With schools back in session all over the state, there is some new guidance about an age-old problem: truancy.

Tennessee lawmakers control some of the purse strings for schools across the state, but they also get into policy. This past session there was a bipartisan effort to crack down on absent students while also keeping them out of court.

Democrat Antonio Parkinson of Memphis and McMinn County Republican John Forgety were two of the bipartisan sponsors of the bill. Forgety, who is a retired school superintendent, said the bill deals with students who have five aggregated unexcused absences.

While parents are notified, they can also be called in for a series of what’s called progressive truancy interventions with their child. Other options include sending the child to counseling, having them do community service or even Saturday classes if truancy continues.

“It’s invaluable to communities of color and poor communities because that is where a lot of these challenges are occurring,” said Rep. Parkinson.

Schools can still refer a truant student to juvenile court, but only after all the new requirements have failed. Many school districts say they have already been doing all they can to keep kids out of court and in school, but now lawmakers are requiring them to do it.

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