- Associated Press - Sunday, May 8, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The Ohio House has passed a bill that seeks to decriminalize truancy and require schools to do more to address the problem.

House Bill 410 overwhelmingly passed in the House on Wednesday. It will now go to the Senate, The Columbus Dispatch reported (https://bit.ly/1s0Ve82).

Under the bill, schools can’t just pass truancy problems to the court system for criminal punishment or suspend students who don’t attend class.

“Our goal with this bill is addressing the root causes of truancy,” said Rep. Jeff Rezabek, a Clayton Republican and the bill’s sponsor.

The bill requires schools to provide earlier notice to parents that students are missing class. Schools would also be pushed to use diversionary programs and intervention teams to form a plan to get the youth back in school, before filing a complaint in court.

Schools and courts would have to report more data on how they’re dealing with truancy.

Erik Roush, a lobbyist for Columbus City Schools, said an important part of the bill is that attendance teams are given the authority to determine if the student is making progress.

“There is no longer a magic number in the (law) that says you have to file a charge,” he said. “The bill gives us the option as we get to the end of the school year to continue those interventions.”

Sen. Peggy Lehner, a Kettering Republican and chairwoman of the Education Committee, said she is likely to try to attach language to reduce schools’ reliance on zero-tolerance discipline policies.

“There are a huge number of kids who are suspended and expelled in the first and second grade,” she said.

Delaware County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge David Hejmanowski said that truancy is often the first contact with the court for youths who have other undetected issues.

Intervening early in these cases is the key to discovering these issues, he said.

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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, https://www.dispatch.com

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