State law encourages or requires districts to address truancy or chronic absenteeism through the provision of comprehensive student support services.
Overview of Student Supports in Tennessee
This document shares information on multi-tiered systems and meeting the needs of chronicly absent students.
Rules of the Tennessee Department of Education 0520-01-02-.17 STATE ATTENDANCE GUIDELINES.
Each Local Education Agency (LEA) shall adopt an attendance policy that is firm, but fair; includes effective accounting and reporting procedures; accounts for extenuating circumstances; includes appeal procedures; and establishes and maintains alternative programs for students who fail to meet minimum attendance requirements.
Attendance policies should include remedies to address excessive absences that account for a student's social and emotional development and family support. Early intervention is a key aspect of a policy that effectively improves attendance. Efforts to improve attendance should include supports and interventions in elementary, middle, and high school levels to address and prevent chronic absenteeism.
- (1) The number of unexcused absences shall comply with T.C.A. § 49-6-3007. When appropriate, responses to and consequences for unexcused absences shall be handled within the school setting using relevant supports and interventions that address the underlying cause(s) for the unexcused absences. Nontraditional learning environments that improve student engagement such as online or distance learning, credit recovery, evening programs and flexible scheduling should be considered.
- (a) Upon or before five (5) days of unexcused absences, the principal or designee shall notify the director of schools or designee and initiate meaningful communications with the student and their parent/guardian. The school shall attempt to determine the underlying cause(s) of the unexcused absences. When appropriate, a plan to improve school attendance should be initiated for the student.
- (b) Upon or before ten (10) days of unexcused absences, the principal or designee shall attempt to meet in person with the student and/or their parent/guardian, develop or refine the attendance plan, and provide necessary supports and services to improve school attendance. The principal or designee shall maintain documented attempts to meet with the student and their parent/guardian and the resulting attendance plan.
- (c) The policy shall address the excusing of absences for reasons including but not limited to the following: injury, illness, pregnancy, hospitalization, homebound, summons, subpoena, court order, military, college visits, school-sponsored activities, school-endorsed activities, death of a family member, and extenuating circumstances determined on a case-by-case basis.
- (d) To the extent possible, local district attendance policies should not be used to penalize students academically.
- (e) The policy shall align with the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act [found at 42 U.S.C. §§ 11431, et seq.].
(2) Whenever possible, attendance issues should be resolved at the school level. To ensure due process, LEAs must adopt a policy that affords students with excessive (more than 5) unexcused absences the opportunity to appeal. Such policy must, at minimum, include written or actual notice to the student or their parent/guardian and the opportunity to be heard. The burden of proof rests on the student or their parent/guardian. The appeal process for determining unexcused absences is ancillary to a truancy decision rendered by a juvenile court judge as described in T.C.A. § 49-6-3010.
Tennessee Code Annotated 49-6-3006. Attendance supervisor.
(a) The sole responsibility and authority for the enforcement of the compulsory attendance laws, compiled in this part, are placed in the local board of education and its designated employees and officers.
(b) To facilitate the enforcement of the compulsory attendance laws, the director of schools shall designate at least one (1) qualified employee who shall be identified as the LEA attendance supervisor. The duties of an attendance supervisor include, but are not limited to, assisting the local board, under the direction of the director of schools, with the enforcement of the compulsory attendance laws of the state and to discharge other duties that are necessary to effectuate enforcement of laws and local policies related to absenteeism and truancy. The attendance supervisor may also be directed to devise and recommend to the director of schools, for board approval, a progressive truancy intervention plan consistent with § 49-6-3009.
(c) The state board of education is authorized to promulgate rules regarding training, licensure, and employment qualifications of attendance supervisors.
Tennessee Code Annotated 49-6-3007. List of students — Reports of attendance — Enforcement of compulsory attendance — List of truant students.
(a) By the beginning of each school year, the director of schools shall furnish, or cause to be furnished through the attendance supervisor, to the principal of each school a list of students who will attend the school together with the names of the students' parents or guardians. The lists must be taken from the census enumeration on file in the office of the director of schools or from any other available and reliable source.
(b) After the opening of school, each principal of a public school must report to the director of schools the names of all students on the list furnished to the principal who have not appeared for enrollment.
(c) A principal or head of school of a public, nonpublic, or church-related school must report to the director of schools of the LEA in which the school is located the names, ages, and residences of all students in attendance at the school within thirty (30) days after the beginning of the school year. The principal or head of school of a public, nonpublic, or church-related school must make other reports of attendance in the school, including transfers of students, as may be required by the local board of education, the state board of education, or the department of education. Notwithstanding subsection (f), this subsection (c) applies to any student less than six (6) years of age who is enrolled in kindergarten in any school to which this subsection (c) is applicable.
(d) All public, nonpublic, and church-related schools shall keep daily reports of attendance, verified by the teacher making the record, that shall be open to inspection at all reasonable times by the director of schools of the LEA in which the school is located, or the director's duly authorized representative. Notwithstanding subsection (f), this subsection (d) applies to any child less than six (6) years of age who is enrolled in kindergarten in any school to which this subsection (d) is applicable.
- (1) By the beginning of each school year, the principal or head of school of a public, nonpublic, or church-related school shall give written notice to the parent, guardian, or person having control of a student subject to compulsory attendance that the parent, guardian, or other person having control of the student must monitor the student's school attendance and require the student to attend school. The written notice must inform the parent, guardian, or other person having control of a student that a student who accumulates five (5) days of unexcused absences during the school year is subject to the LEA's progressive truancy interventions and that continued unexcused absences may result in a referral to juvenile court. The five (5) days of unexcused absences need not be five (5) consecutive days of unexcused absences.
- (2) The principal of a public school must report promptly to the director of schools, or to the attendance supervisor, the names of all students who have withdrawn from school or who have accumulated three (3) days of unexcused absences. Upon a student's accumulation of three (3) days of unexcused absences, the director of schools or the attendance supervisor may serve, or cause to be served, upon the parent, guardian, or other person having control of a child subject to compulsory attendance who is unlawfully absent from school, written notice that the child's attendance at school is required by law.
- (3) Additionally, the principal of a public school must report promptly to the director of schools, or to the attendance supervisor, the names of all students who have withdrawn from school or who have accumulated five (5) days of unexcused absences. Each successive accumulation of five (5) days of unexcused absences by a student must also be reported.
- (A) When a student accumulates five (5) days of unexcused absences, the director of schools or attendance supervisor shall serve, or cause to be served, upon the parent, guardian, or other person having control of a child subject to compulsory attendance who is unlawfully absent from school written notice that the child's attendance at school is required by law. The director of schools or attendance supervisor shall send a new notice after each successive accumulation of five (5) unexcused absences.
- (B) After the child has accumulated five (5) unexcused absences, and after given adequate time, as determined by director of schools or attendance supervisor, the child's parent, guardian, or other person having control of the child has failed to turn in documentation to excuse those absences, the director of schools or attendance supervisor shall implement the first tier of the progressive truancy intervention requirements as described in § 49-6-3009.
- (C) Nothing in this section shall prohibit a local board of education from adopting a truancy intervention plan that includes intervention actions to be taken before those required by this subsection (e).
(f) Except as otherwise provided by § 49-6-3001 or § 49-6-3005, this section is applicable to a child less than six (6) years of age and the child's parent, guardian, or other person having control of a child, when such person has enrolled the child in a public school; provided, that a child may be withdrawn within six (6) weeks of initial enrollment without penalty.
(g) For the purposes of this part, for recording and coding student absences from school because of disciplinary actions, the following definitions apply:
- (1) “Expulsion” means removal from attendance for more than ten (10) consecutive days or more than fifteen (15) days in a month of school attendance. Multiple suspensions that occur consecutively constitute expulsion. The LEA is not eligible to receive funding for an expelled student;
- (2) “Remand” means assignment to an alternative school. The student so assigned shall be included in average daily attendance and average daily membership and shall continue to be counted as present for funding purposes. The department of education shall establish a set of codes to be used for reporting reasons that students are remanded to an alternative school; and
- (3) “Suspension” means dismissal for any reason from attendance at school not exceeding ten (10) consecutive days. Multiple suspensions shall not run consecutively, nor shall multiple suspensions be applied to avoid expulsion from school. The LEA remains eligible to receive funding for a suspended student.
- (A) An LEA may enter into an agreement with the local law enforcement agency serving the LEA's area and the appropriate local government in that area to assist in the enforcement of compulsory attendance upon complying with the following conditions:
- (i) Creation by the local board of education of an advisory council to assist the board in formulating the agreement. The board must include representatives of teachers, parents, administrators, and other community representatives;
- (ii) Receipt of input from neighborhood groups and other interested parties; and
- (iii) At least one (1) public hearing on the proposed agreement prior to its adoption by the board.
- (B) The agreement must provide for:
- (i) Training teachers, principals, social workers, and other school personnel concerning truancy issues;
- (ii) Training of involved law enforcement personnel in the truancy law, including categories of students to which the law does not apply, such as nonpublic school students or home school students; and
- (iii) Safeguards to protect students from discriminatory or selective enforcement and to protect the civil rights of students and parents.
- (C) If an LEA enters into an agreement, then every public school principal or teacher employed by the LEA must report promptly to the director of schools, or the director's designated representative, the names of all students who accumulated five (5) days of unexcused absences and continue to report each subsequent unexcused absence. The five (5) days of unexcused absences need not be five (5) consecutive days of unexcused absences.
- (2) If a student accumulates five (5) days of unexcused absences, the director of schools shall serve, or cause to be served, upon the parent, guardian, or other person having control of the student written notice that the student's attendance at school is required. The notice must inform the parent, guardian, or other person having control of the student of this subsection (h).
- (3) Under the agreement, and for purposes of this section and § 37-1-102(b)(32)(A), a student who accumulates three (3) days of unexcused absences may be deemed habitually truant.
- (4) The director of schools or the director's representative may issue a list of truant students to the local law enforcement agency for the purpose of allowing the law enforcement agency to take the student into temporary custody when the student is found away from the school premises, without adequate excuse, during school hours, in a public place, in any public or private conveyance, or in any place of business open to the public, unless accompanied by a parent, guardian, or other person having control of the student. The agreement shall specify that the law enforcement officer's sole function is to deliver the student to:
- (A) The parent, guardian, or other person having control of the student;
- (B) The principal of the school in which the student is enrolled;
- (C) A truancy center established by the LEA; or
- (D) The juvenile court, if the juvenile court and the local law enforcement agency have entered into a local interagency agreement.
- (5) The powers conferred under such agreements may be exercised without warrant and without subsequent legal proceedings.
- (6) This subsection (h) does not apply to students enrolled in nonpublic schools, home schools under § 49-6-3050, or church-related schools under § 49-50-801.
- (7) Upon issuance of a standing order by the juvenile court, LEA officials shall be allowed to release student record information to local law enforcement agencies and to juvenile justice system officials to assist the officials in effectively serving the student whose record is released. Officials and authorities receiving the information shall not disclose the information to any other party without prior written consent of the parent. Release of a student record must comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g), § 10-7-504, and other relevant state and federal privacy laws.
Tennessee Code Annotated 49-6-3009. Educational neglect — Progressive truancy intervention plans — Referral to juvenile court.
(a) Any parent, guardian, or other person who has control of a child, and who violates this part commits educational neglect, which is a Class C misdemeanor.
(b) Each day's unlawful absence constitutes a separate offense.
(c) A director of schools or attendance supervisor shall devise and recommend, and the local board of education shall adopt, a progressive truancy intervention plan for students who violate compulsory attendance requirements prior to the filing of a truancy petition or a criminal prosecution for educational neglect. These interventions must be designed to address student conduct related to truancy in the school setting and minimize the need for referrals to juvenile court.
(d) Progressive truancy intervention plans adopted by local boards of education pursuant to subsection (c) must be applied prior to referral to juvenile court as described in § 49-6-3007(e)(1). Progressive truancy intervention plans must meet the following requirements:
- (1) Tier one of the progressive truancy intervention plan must include, at a minimum:
- (A) A conference with the student and the parent, guardian, or other person having control of the student;
- (B) A resulting attendance contract to be signed by the student, the parent, guardian, or other person having control of the student, and an attendance supervisor or designee. The contract must include:
- (i) A specific description of the school's attendance expectations for the student;
- (ii) The period for which the contract is in effect; and
- (iii) Penalties for additional absences and alleged school offenses, including additional disciplinary action and potential referral to juvenile court; and
- (C) Regularly scheduled follow-up meetings, which may be with the student and the parent, guardian, or other person having control of the student to discuss the student's progress;
- (2) Tier two must be implemented upon a student's accumulation of additional unexcused absences in violation of the attendance contract required under tier one. Tier two must include an individualized assessment by a school employee of the reasons a student has been absent from school, and if necessary, referral of the child to counseling, community-based services, or other in-school or out-of-school services aimed at addressing the student's attendance problems; and
- (3) Tier three must be implemented if the truancy interventions under tier two are unsuccessful. Tier three may consist of one (1) or more of the following:
- (A) School-based community services;
- (B) Participation in a school-based restorative justice program;
- (C) Referral to a school-based teen court; or
- (D) Saturday or after school courses designed to improve attendance and behavior.
(e) In-school suspension or out-of-school suspension must not be used as part of the progressive truancy intervention plans adopted by schools for unexcused absence from class or school.
(f) Notwithstanding subsections (d) and (g), if the progressive truancy intervention plan is unsuccessful with a student and the school can document that the student's parent or guardian is unwilling to cooperate in the truancy intervention plan, the director of schools or designee may report the student's absences to the appropriate judge pursuant to subsection (g).
(g) If an LEA has applied a progressive truancy intervention plan that complies with subsection (d) and interventions under the plan have failed to meaningfully address the student's school attendance, the director of schools, after written notice to the parent, guardian, or other person having control of the student, shall report the student who is unlawfully absent from school to the appropriate judge having juvenile jurisdiction in that county. Each case must be dealt with in such manner as the judge may determine to be in the best interest of the student, consistent with §§ 37-1-132, 37-1-168, and 37-1-169. In the event a student in kindergarten through grade twelve (K-12) is adjudicated to be unruly because the student has accumulated five (5) days or more of unexcused absences during any school year, the judge may assess a fine of up to fifty dollars ($50.00) or five (5) hours of community service, in the discretion of the judge, against the parent or legal guardian of the student.
(h) Each referral to juvenile court for conduct described in subsection (g) and § 49-6-3007(h)(4)(D) must be accompanied by a statement from the student's school certifying that:
- (1) The school applied the progressive truancy intervention plan adopted under subsection (d) for the student; and
- (2) The progressive truancy interventions failed to meaningfully address the student's school attendance.
- (i) A court shall dismiss a complaint or referral made by an LEA under this section that is not made in compliance with subsection (h).
(j) Notwithstanding any other law, each LEA having previously adopted an effective progressive truancy intervention program that substantially conforms to this section may present the intervention program to the commissioner of education for approval in lieu of strict compliance with this section. If the commissioner does not approve the intervention plan, the LEA shall modify the plan according to the commissioner's recommendations and resubmit the revised plan for approval by the commissioner.
(k) Each head of school of a nonpublic or church-related school shall recommend, and the governing board of the school shall adopt, a policy addressing compulsory attendance and truancy that describes the interventions that the school will employ for violations of the compulsory attendance laws. The policy shall provide that the director of schools or the attendance supervisor in the LEA where the student's home of record is located will be notified in the event that a student at a nonpublic or church-related school is expelled or withdraws from school.
(l) Parents, guardians, or other persons having control of a student who is required to attend remedial instruction under § 49-6-3021 commit educational neglect, as defined in subsection (a), if the student is truant from the instruction.
Tennessee Code Annotated 49-6-303. School counselors.
(b) School counselors shall provide preventive and developmental counseling to school students in order to prepare them for their school responsibilities and their social and physical development. In providing these services, school counselors shall:
- (1) Aid children in academic development through the use and interpretation of test scores, improved pupil self-concept and early identification and attention to problems that are deterrents to learning and development;
- (2) Act in a consultative role to teachers relative to the use of test scores and improvement of the learning environment, use of out-of-school resources and agencies and development of a home-school liaison;
- (3) Offer services related to the identification and placement of children with handicapping conditions;
- (4) Serve in a consultative role to parents, in a liaison capacity, as a resource in understanding growth and development problems and as an aid in understanding how some nonschool factors affect learning and achievement of children;
- (5) Serve as a resource in decreasing discipline problems through an understanding of peer relations, teacher-pupil relations, social awareness and drug awareness;
- (6) Aid in improving school attendance and retention by implementing an early identification and prevention program for potential attendance and retention problems;
Tennessee Code Annotated 49-6-7005. Improving parental involvement in children's education.
(a) As used in this section, “parent” means parent, guardian or legal custodian who is required under § 49-6-3001 to enroll the child in school.
(b) LEAs are authorized and encouraged to partner with individuals, community and faith-based groups and organizations and nonprofit and for-profit entities to design and implement programs to improve parental involvement in their children's education and schools, particularly in high priority schools or school systems.
(c) LEAs shall identify or encourage development of parenting classes that are provided at low or no cost to parents by organizations within the community and that are designed to improve parental involvement in their children's education.
(d) Parenting classes in these parent involvement programs should provide parents with information and skills related to improving student performance. For example, these classes may address:
- (1) How to be a positive role model for children in motivating them to do well in school;
- (2) How to maximize the benefits of parent-teacher conferences;
- (3) The importance of sleep and good nutrition in school performance;
- (4) How to help with homework assignments and to establish an environment conducive to completion of homework assignments;
- (5) Techniques that can be taught students to improve studying and classroom performance;
- (6) How to access and use technology provided by the LEA or school that furnishes information about school assignments, activities and events and about student attendance and performance;
- (7) The importance of school attendance and the consequences of truancy;
- (8) How to help students prepare for entrance into college or the workforce; and
- (9) Ways of becoming involved in a child's school, including opportunities to volunteer in the school.