New law is changing the way Ohio school districts monitor attendance

CLEVELAND - Ohio's K through 12 students this year are playing under a new set of rules when it comes to determining if they've missed too much school. 

This is the first year the state is requiring the tracking of time in the classroom not by days but by hours.

It's all part of a new law passed last year by the legislature in 2016 to take a preventative approach to excessive absences and truancy. Schools can no longer suspend or expel students for missing too much school.

"For the K-8 scholars many of the reasons why they're absent is related to parent issues and not necessarily their own choosing," said Lorri Hobson, Cleveland Metropolitan School District's Director of Student Attendance.

The law requires districts and community schools must have local policies that outline their interventions and strategies that support students who miss too much school. 

“There are many reasons students miss school, but districts often can directly impact their students’ attendance. By using data to identify and support students who may need extra support and services, districts can target supports to get students to school every day,” the state’s analysis reads.

Under the changes, habitual truancy is defined as being absent 30 or more consecutive hours without a legitimate excuse, absent 42 or more hours in one school month without a legitimate excuse, or being absent 72 or more hours in one school year without a legitimate excuse.

Excessive absenteeism is being absent 38 or more hours in one school month with or without a legitimate excuse or absent 65 or more hours in one school year with or without a legitimate excuse.

Districts are required to notify the parents when their child nears these thresholds as well as the state. The latter has caused some confusion among parents and districts. What the district is reporting to the state when it comes to absenteeism is the number of students in their district who fall into the category not the individual names of the students. 

All matters are handled at the local level.

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