Truancy issues in Virginia
What does a school system do when a child misses 7 or more days of school? Over the years I have represented many children who have been alleged to be a child in need of supervision due to truancy (a "CHINS-TRUANCY" charge). There is a codified process to ensure school attendance.
5th AbsenceVa. Code section 22.1-258 provides criteria and procedure for filing a "CHINS-Truancy" petition with the court. The student must have missed 5 days of school without indication that parent is aware of and supports absence AND a reasonable effort to notify the parent has failed. The school also must make reasonable efforts to ensure that direct contact is made with the parent, either in person or through telephone conversation, to obtain an explanation for the pupil's absence and to explain to the parent the consequences of continued nonattendance. Next, school representatives along with the student and his parent need to develop a plan to address the absences.
6th AbsenceIf, after all this is completed, the student misses another day of school, then the school has 10 days to schedule a conference with the student and the parent and the actual conference must be held within 15 days. The school must review the absences, plan for future attendance and ensure the parents and child understand the consequences of more absences.
7th AbsenceIf the student misses another day then the school can file the "CHINS-Truancy" petition with the Juvenile Court. The court must hold the hearing on the allegation within 120 days. It is my opinion that the Commonwealth Attorney must represent the school system, although some Commonwealth Attorneys disagree with me. The court must find that each of the elements listed above must be met before finding that a child is indeed a child in need of supervision.
Court AppearancesThis process is not a quick fix. It requires diligence by the school administration and at least two to three court appearances. The impacts of that finding will be discussed in a later posting.