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Title: Compulsory School Attendance
Adopted: January 4, 2003
Last Revised: October 5, 2021
Last Reviewed: November 1, 2015
COMPULSORY SCHOOL ATTENDANCE
Compulsory education is essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people and the continued prosperity of our nation. Maintaining regular student attendance is necessary to achieve the goal of an educated citizenry.
Compulsory Attendance Ages
Under state law, full-time attendance at school is required of every child between 6 years of age and under age 17, unless they have received a high school diploma or its equivalent.
Although not required to enroll in school, if a child who is 5 years of age and under age 6 is voluntarily enrolled in a public school and has not formally withdrawn, that child is required to attend school when it is in session.
Excusable Absences from School
A person’s absence from school is excused when the absence is for one of the following reasons:
- Personal illness;
- An appointment with a health professional that must be made during the regular school day;
- Observance of a recognized religious holiday when the observance is required during the regular school day;
- A family emergency;
- A planned absence for a personal or educational purpose which has been approved; or
- Education disruption resulting from homelessness, unplanned psychiatric hospitalization, unplanned hospitalization for a medical emergency, foster care placement, youth development center placement or some other out-of-district placement that is not otherwise authorized by an IEP or other education plan or Superintendents’ agreement.
Adult Responsibility for School Attendance
Parents or other adults having control of a person of compulsory attendance age are responsible for
ensuring that a student attends school as required by law. The Portland Board of Public Education (“Board”) expects school administrators and staff to work with families in an effort to ensure compliance.
Exceptions to the Compulsory Attendance Requirement
A child may be excused from compulsory attendance at school if they meet the requirements in one of the following sections:
A. They have graduated from high school before that person’s 17th birthday;
B. They have:
Reached the age of 15 years of age or completed the 9th grade;
Obtained permission to leave school from their parent;
Been approved by the principal for a suitable program of work and study or training;
Obtained permission to leave school from the Board or its designee; and
Agreed in writing with that person’s parent and the Board or its designee to meet annually until that person’s 17th birthday to review that person’s educational needs.
If a request to be excused from school is denied pursuant to this section, the student’s parent may appeal to the Commissioner of Education.
- They have matriculated and are attending an accredited, post-secondary, degree-granting institution as a full-time student. An exception to the compulsory attendance law under this paragraph must be approved by the Commissioner of Education.
- They are enrolled in an online learning program or course.
Alternatives to Attendance in Public School
A person who is age 6 or older and under age 17 shall be excused from attending a public day school if they obtain equivalent instruction as allowed by law. A person under age 6 is not required to comply with this section.
Equivalent instruction alternatives are as follows:
- A private school approved for attendance purposes pursuant to state law and regulations;
- A private school recognized by the Department of Education as providing equivalent instruction;
- A home instruction program that complies with state law and regulations;
- Any other manner arranged by the Board and approved by the Commissioner of Education; or
- Pursuant to 20-A MRS Sections 5104-A or 8605 (approved alternative education program or adult education program).
A student shall be credited with attendance at a private school under Paragraphs A or B only if the legally required certificate from the private school is filed with the student’s school unit.
Adopted: January 3, 2007
Last Revised: December 6, 2016
A student is truant if the student:
- Is subject to the compulsory attendance law; and
- Has completed grade six and has the equivalent of 10 full days of unexcused absences or seven consecutive school days of unexcused absences during a school year; or
- Is at least seven years of age and has not completed grade six and has the equivalent of seven full days of unexcused absences or five consecutive school days of unexcused absences during a school year. Truancy under this paragraph is considered “child abuse and neglect” under Maine law and is reportable to the Department of Health and Human Services.
- Attendance Coordinators
The Superintendent/designee shall appoint one or more attendance coordinators in accordance with state law.
As required by law, the following procedure shall be followed when a student is truant.
- The principal, upon determining that a student is truant under Section I, shall notify the Superintendent within five school days of the last unexcused absence.
- A student who is determined to be truant shall be referred by the Superintendent to the school’s (student assistance team OR general education intervention system) within five school days.
- The team shall meet and determine the cause of the truancy and assess the impact of the student’s past and possible future absences on the student. If it is determined that the absences have a negative effect, the team shall develop an intervention plan to address the student’s absences and any negative effects.
The intervention plan may include, but is not limited to:
- Frequent communication between the teacher(s) and the family
- Changes in the learning environment;
- Student counseling;
- Tutoring, including peer tutoring;
- Placement into different classes;
- Consideration of multiple pathways of learning as allowed by law;
- Attendance contracts;
- Referral to family services agencies; and
- Other interventions, including but not limited to referral to the school attendance coordinator, student assistance team or dropout prevention committee.
The Plan should also address how future absences of the student will be dealt with; the timeline for particular activities; and periodic reports to the Superintendent on the student’s progress in complying with the plan.
D. The student and parents/legal guardians will be invited to attend any meetings scheduled to discuss truancy and the intervention plan. Failure of the student and/or parents/legal guardian to attend any scheduled meetings shall not preclude the school from implementing an intervention plan.
E. If the intervention plan does not correct the student’s truancy, the Superintendent shall serve or cause to be served upon the parent/legal guardian in-hand or by registered mail a written notice that the student’s attendance at school is required by law. The notice shall:
- State the student is required to attend school pursuant to 20-A MRSA §5001-A (the compulsory attendance law);
- Explain the parent’s/legal guardian’s right to inspect the student’s attendance records, attendance coordinator’s reports, and principal’s reports;
- Explain that the failure to send the student to school and maintain the student in regular attendance is a civil violation in accordance with 20-A MRSA §5053-A and will jeopardize the student’s status in his/her current grade;
- State that the Superintendent may notify local law enforcement authorities of a violation of 20-A MRSA §5053-A, and, if the violation falls under Section I.B.2, may notify the Department of Health and Human Services; and
- Outline the intervention plan developed to address the student’s habitual truancy and the steps that have been taken to implement that plan.
F. Prior to notifying local law enforcement authorities, the Superintendent shall schedule at least one meeting of the student assistance team as required in Paragraph III.C and may invite a local prosecutor.
G. If after three school days after the service of the notice described in Section III.C of this policy the student remains truant and the parent/legal guardian and student refuse to attend the meeting referred to in Section III.E, the Superintendent shall report the facts of the unlawful absence to local law enforcement authorities. Local law enforcement may proceed with enforcement action unless the student is at once placed in an appropriate school or otherwise meets the requirements of the compulsory attendance law.
H. When a student is determined to be truant and in violation of the compulsory attendance law, and the student assistance team has made a good faith attempt to meet the requirements of Section III.C, the Superintendent shall notify the Board of the truancy.
III. Annual Report to Commissioner
The Superintendent shall submit an annual report regarding truancy to the Commissioner of Education by October 1. The report must identify the number of truants in the school administration unit in the preceding school year; describe the school unit’s efforts to deal with truancy; account for actions brought under truancy law, including the number of truants referred to the student assistance team; and include any other information on truancy requested by the Commissioner.
 An attendance coordinator must be a professionally certified or registered person in the mental health, social welfare or educational system who is qualified to carry out the duties in accordance with rules to be established by the State Board of Education. See MRSA 20-A §5052-A.
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