Saturday, September 09, 2000

Fairfield truants get one less grace day

Stricter no-credit policy complies with new state law

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        FAIRFIELD — Students in Fairfield Freshman and Senior High schools who miss more than seven days in a semesterlong class won't get any credit for the course unless they present proper documentation for their absence.

        It is a one-day change from last year's policy that denied credit after eight days of absences and was prompted in part by a new state law that defines habitual and chronic truancy and stiffens penalties for both.

        School districts across Ohio were required to amend their policies by Sept. 4 to be in compliance. Under the law, if a child is absent for more than five consecutive days, seven days in a month or 12 days in a year without a valid excuse, the child is considered a habitual truant. Those who have been absent without excuse for seven consecutive days, 10 school days in a month or a minimum of 15 days in a school year are considered chronic truants.

        “Theirs (state law) is stricter than ours and I like that,” Superintendent Charles Wiedenmann said after the board of education voted to revise its policy to meet the stricter mandates.

        After just one year of denying credit to students who missed too much school, high school Principal Monica Mitter said absenteeism dropped from just under 9 percent in the 1998-99 school year to just over 5.5 percent last year. Fewer than a dozen students lost credit at the freshman school.

        Fairfield's previous policy didn't distinguish between habitual and chronic truants, and called for intervention after the 16th day of unexcused absence, said Randy Oppenheimer, district spokesman.

        The law allows for the possibility of the child being removed from the home, sent to a juvenile correctional facility, being ordered on house arrest or to participate in probation.

        Fairfield's revised policy also includes options for the child and his family that the school had practiced in the past but never put into writing.

        They include assigning the child to an alternative school, requiring the child or parent to attend counseling or prevention programs, and notifying the Bureau of Motor Vehicles for possible license suspension.


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