D.C. Council passes tougher law for truants

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Capital Land,Leah Fabel

D.C. students tempted by the thought of truancy will have ten fewer free passes next year before referral to the city’s Child and Family Services Agency.

Legislation passed Tuesday by the D.C. City Council reduces the number of unexcused absences a student can accumulate to 10, from 20 under the previous policy.

“We have a crisis on our hands with unexcused absences,” said Tommy Wells, sponsor of the legislation.

Nearly 8,000 students, kindergarten through eighth grade, had 10 or more unexcused absences, Wells said, citing data from school officials. That’s nearly 30 percent of all students at those grade levels.

The legislation was passed five days after Councilman David Catania called for parents whose children routinely skip school to potentially lose public assistance benefits, and even face jail time.

The legislation would apply to all D.C. students, both those in traditional public schools, and those in charter schools. DCPS recently instituted its own truancy measures, including calls to parents upon the first infraction.

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