What started with concern for attendance and absenteeism rates on Wyoming’s Wind River Reservation has led to a proposed bill that would redefine “unexcused absence” in the state’s public school system.
Senator Affie Ellis elaborated when she introduced Senate File 68 to other members of the Senate Education Committee meeting earlier this week.
She said an attempt was made to pass a comprehensive absentee and truancy bill in the Legislature’s last session, but although the measure passed through the Senate, it died on the House floor.
She said Senate File 68 has a narrower focus than last year’s bill, dealing with the definition of an “unexcused absence.” Current Wyoming statute says the individual school boards “may” define “unexcused absences” within their districts, meaning that the definition of “unexcused absence” can vary from one district to another.
Ellis said because a parent could be charged with a misdemeanor and face fines and jail time for a child’s truancy, the policy needs to be given the weight of law. She said Senate File 68 would do that.
In addition, she said, Senate File 68 states that illness, injury or other healthcare needs of a student or the death or serious illness of a member of the student’s family will not constitute an unexcused absence. Ellis said in her own school district, absence due to the death or serious illness of a family member currently is considered an unexcused absence.
Members of the Senate Education Committee sent Senate File 68 to the Senate floor with a “do pass” recommendation.