State law requires districts to limit use of out-of-school suspension and expulsion based on factors such as student age or offense type.
2017 Tennessee Code Annotated 49-6-3024. Review of laws and policies related to exclusionary discipline of students in pre-kindergarten through kindergarten.
(a) The department of education, in consultation with juvenile court officials, shall review all current laws and policies related to exclusionary discipline practices in public schools for students in pre-kindergarten through kindergarten (pre-K-K). For purposes of this section, "exclusionary discipline" means any type of school disciplinary action that removes or excludes a student from the student's traditional educational setting.
(b) The review shall:
- (1) Examine the number of exclusionary discipline actions issued by an LEA and the length of each respective disciplinary action;
- (2) Detail the type of offenses committed by the students that led to the exclusionary discipline action;
- (3) Review the impact exclusionary discipline has on students;
- (4) Examine recommendations from lawmakers, juvenile court officials, judges, district attorneys, the Tennessee commission on children and youth, and representatives from LEAs on alternatives to exclusionary discipline;
- (5) Identify free resources to support teachers and parents in addressing children's social, emotional, and behavioral health, strengthening family relationships, and increasing developmental and behavioral screening; and
- (6) Research the possibility of:
- (A) Eliminating exclusionary discipline for non-violent offenses; and
- (B) Encouraging schools to adopt restorative justice discipline practices.
(c) The department shall develop guidelines and Standard for alternatives to exclusionary discipline practices based on the findings of the review required under subsection (b).
(d) The department shall present its findings and a written report to the education committees of the senate, the education administration and planning committee of the house of representatives, and the education instruction and programs committee of the house of representatives no later than May 1, 2018.
(e) After submission of the report required in subsection (d), the department shall develop a model policy for alternatives to exclusionary discipline practices that districts may adopt for students in pre-kindergarten through kindergarten (pre-K-K). If a district does not adopt the model policy developed by the department, the district shall develop and implement a policy that meets the guidelines and Standard developed under subsection (c). Each LEA shall adopt the model policy or develop their own policy prior to the 2018-2019 school year.
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.