State law Act 1223 makes changes to AR attendance polices

    5:38 PM, Sep 27, 2011   |    comments
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    Little Rock, Ark. (KTHV) -- A new school attendance policy went into effect this fall for all public schools in Arkansas.

    Representative James McLean of Batesville sponsored Act 1223 to discourage truancy. It, more specifically, restricts students from missing an excessive number of school classes each year.

    This new law no longer recognizes absences as excused or unexcused. It's now up to each school district to decide how many days students are allowed to miss each semester.

    Unexcused and excused. Two words that will no longer be used to describe school absences. That's according to a new state law enforcing stricter attendance policies in Arkansas schools.

    "The intent behind the law is to discourage students from skipping school basically," Judy Wilber, General Counsel for the Pulaski County Special School District.

    Wilber says the board of directors within each school district will adopt a plan to promote maximum student attendance as part of Act 1223.

    "It's also to help streamline the process dealing with absences. Because if we have staff and administrators that have to decide whether an absence is excused or unexcused," Wilber adds.

    "Our district has chosen the number of 10. And right now we're submitting that proposal."

    Some argue, though, that there are students who have to miss extra days due to medical reasons. Wilber says there are exemptions for those students.

    "Parents and guardians do have the opportunity to come in and talk to us and let us know if there are extenuating circumstances that have caused these absences. And, if so, our district is certainly willing to work with the parents," she says.

    When it comes to school sanctioned activities, the law states additional absences are allowed.

    "The law allows military families to apply for and receive exemptions. Also, FHA events. Students who work in elections. And there are a number of exemptions that are allowed for students," she adds.

    And if a student violates the absentee limit, Wilber says they can seek help.

    "At that point the information has to be submitted to the prosecuting attorney. And also there's a possibility of denial of credit and denial of promotion," she says.

    It's important to note, these changes in policy have not gone into effect in every district. Several districts, including the PCSSD, will rely on the current policy of excused and unexcused absences until further notice.

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