Absent at VBOE

Never mind a statutory duty to enforce the mandatory attendance laws, the Board of “Education” did not even attempt to adopt a truancy regulation until 2011.  They botched that one so terribly that they withdrew it

The next try yielded a wordy concoction that ignored part-day truancy (the kind that killed Justin Creech in 2005).  As I said at the time:

[W]e are obliged to read the statute to accomplish its purpose: every student must attend school for “at least 180 teaching days or 990 teaching hours.” Staff’s narrow reading of the [statute] would lead to a regulation that is manifestly inconsistent with the will of our General Assembly.

Indeed, having officially interpreted the statute to apply only to full day absences, the Board would be challenged to later expand the reach of the regulation to part day absences. Further, the regulation as reproposed does not even require the reporting of part day absences. The Board thus seeks to codify its failure to enforce the mandatory attendance statute as to such absences.

The feeble regulation took effect Nov. 30, 2016, 5+ years after the first attempt.

To the good, the regulation requires some reporting regarding compliance with the requirements of Va. Code § 22.1-258 (notice to parents after five absences; conference after six; prosecution of parents or CHINS petition after seven).

So I went looking for the Board’s data reporting requirements. 

The VDOE Data Elements (xls; also available as a pdf) for the 2016-2017 Student Record Collection were last revised on August 8, 2016, before the Nov. 30, 2016 effective date but well after the May, 2016 adoption of the truancy regulation.  Only two of these data elements refer to truancy:

  • Item 47, Truancy Conference Flag (Conference scheduled with parents when student has six or more unexcused absences); and
  • Item 68, Unexcused Absences (Cumulative number of unexcused absences)

VDOE reports to the public (under the heading “Student Truancy”) only the count of conferences (that the report calls “Truancy Count”).  These numbers are interesting, but only mildly so in the absence of the count of 6-day truancies.

VDOE does not explain why it suppresses those totals that could measure the extent to which a division has met the conference requirement of § 22.1-258.  Could it be that the Board would be embarrassed because these data would show widespread failure to comply with this requirement the Board is obliged to enforce?

As of Feb. 5, 2017, this “Truancy Count” report for the 2016 school year has not been posted (Never mind that we are seven+ months into the 2017 school year).

More to the point, the Data Elements have not been revised to include the requirements of the Board’s truancy regulation.  Looks like we get to go yet another year without any measure at all of the Board’s failure to discharge its duty to enforce school attendance.

Your tax dollars at “work.”