Texas Educational Code (TEC)
Attendance Officer Sec. 25.091(b)
Attendance Officers in Fort Worth ISD are called Stay In School Coordinators and have the powers assigned to them under TEC Section 25.091(b). They are not licensed peace officers and cannot take a child into custody. By law an Attendance Officer employed by a district who is not commissioned as a peace officer has the following powers and duties with respect to enforcement of compulsory school attendance requirements:
- To investigate each case of a violation of the compulsory school attendance requirements referred to the attendance officer;
- To enforce compulsory school attendance requirements by applying truancy prevention measures adopted under Education Code 25.0915 to the student and if the measures fail to address the student's conduct meaningfully:
- Referring the student to a truancy court if the student has unexcused absences for the amount of time specified under Family Code 65.003(a); and
- Filing a complaint in a county, justice, or municipal court against a parent who violates Education Code 093;
- To monitor school attendance compliance by each student investigated by the officer;
- To maintain an investigative record on each compulsory school attendance requirement violation and related court action and, at the request of a court, the board, or the Commissioner, to provide a record to the individual or entity requesting the record;
- To make a home visit or otherwise contact the parent of a student who is in violation of compulsory school attendance requirements, except that the attendance officer may not enter a residence without permission of the parent or the owner or tenant of the residence; and
- At the request of a parent, to escort a student from any location to a school campus to ensure the student’s compliance with compulsory school attendance
A person defined as “homeless” is entitled to admission “regardless of the residence of the person, of either parent of the person, or the person’s guardian or other person having lawful control of the person.” Therefore, a person who is homeless is entitled to admission in any Texas school district. The definition in 42 U.S.C. §11302 is similar, but not identical, to the definition of “homeless children and youths” enacted in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation enacted by Congress in 2002. As the definition in the NCLB legislation applies specifically under federal law to the enrollment of homeless children and youth. The Texas Education Agency, advised that school districts apply the NCLB definition, in addition to the definition in 42 U.S.C.§11302, when determining if a student is eligible for enrollment under §25.001(b)(5). Both definitions are set out below. Under federal law, homeless students may not be segregated from students who are not homeless, prohibiting assignments to a “shelter school” or other segregated settings. Limited exceptions are provided for a short period to deal with a health and safety emergency or to provide temporary, special, and supplementary services that are unique to the needs of the homeless children.
42 U.S.C. §11302(a) provides:
For the purpose of this chapter, the terms “homeless,” “homeless individual,” and “homeless person” means:
- an individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence;
- an individual or family with a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, including a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train station, airport, or camping ground;
- an individual or family living in a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living arrangements (including hotels and motels paid for by Federal, State or local government programs for low-income individual or charitable organizations, congregate shelters, and transitional housing);
- an individual who resided in a shelter or place not meant for human habitation and who is exiting an institution where he or she temporarily resided;
- an individual or family who will imminently lose their housing, including housing they own, rent, or live in without paying rent, are sharing with others, and rooms in hotels or motels not paid for by Federal, State or local government programs for low-income individual or by charitable organizations, as evidenced by:
a court order resulting from an eviction action that notifies the individual or family that they must leave within 14 days;
the individual or family having a primary nighttime residence that is a room in a hotel or motel and where they lack the resources necessary to reside there for more than 14 days; or
credible evidence indicating that the owner or renter of the housing will not allow the individual or family to stay for more than 14 days, and any oral statement from an individual or family seeking homeless assistance that is found to be credible shall be considered credible evidence for purposes of this clause;
a) Has not identified subsequent residence; and
b) Lacks the resources or support networks needed to obtain other permanent housing; and
- Unaccompanied youth and homeless families with children and youth defined as homeless under other Federal statues who—
a) Have experienced a long term period without living independently in permanent housing,
b) Have experienced persistent instability as measured by frequent moves over such period, and
c) Can be expected to continue in such status for an extended period of time because of chronic disabilities, chronic physical health or mental health conditions, substance addiction, histories of domestic violence or childhood abuse, the presence of a child or youth with a disability, or multiple barriers to employment.
42 U.S.C. §11434a provides:
The term “homeless children and youths”—
- Means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence (within the meaning of 42 U.S.C.§11302(a) above; and
- Children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason, are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations, are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement;
- Children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings;
- Children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings; and
- Migratory children who qualify as homeless for the purposes of this part because the children are living in circumstances described above.
Compulsory attendance applies to students who are at least six years old as of September 1 of the applicable school year. The law requires a student to attend public school until the student’s 19th birthday unless the student is exempt under Texas Educational Code (TEC) §25.086.
Compulsory attendance applies to certain extended-year programs, tutorial classes, accelerated reading instruction programs, accelerated instruction programs, basic skills programs, and summer programs for student subject to certain disciplinary removals. Under TEC§25.085(c), it also applies to students below the age for compulsory attendance during any period that the student is voluntarily enrolled in prekindergarten or kindergarten.
A person who voluntarily enrolls in or attends school after the person’s 19th birthday is required to attend each school day for the entire period the program of instruction for which the student is enrolled is offered. The state requirement is not enforceable through §§25.093 and 25.094. However, if the person has more than five unexcused absences in a semester, the school district may revoke the person’s enrollment for the remainder of the school year under this subsection. The school District may not revoke enrollment on a day on which the student is physically present at school. This authority to revoke enrollment, however, does not override the district’s responsibility to provide a free appropriate public education to a student who is eligible for special education services. Also, please note that a student whose enrollment is revoked under this provision is considered a dropout for accountability purposes.
Compulsory Attendance Exemptions
A child is exempt from the requirements of compulsory school attendance if the child:
- Attends a private or parochial school that includes in its course a study of good citizenship;
- Is eligible to participate in a school district’s special education program under §29.003 and cannot be appropriately served by the resident district;
- Has a physical or mental condition of a temporary or remediable nature that makes the child’s attendance infeasible and holds a certificate from a qualified physician specifying the temporary condition, indicating the treatment prescribed to remedy the temporary condition, and covering the anticipated period of the child’s absence from school for the purpose of receiving and recuperating from that remedial treatment;
- Is expelled;
The exemption from compulsory attendance for students who have been expelled applies only in a school district that does not participate in a mandatory Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program (JJAEP). With certain exceptions, counties with populations greater than 125,000 are required to have JJAEP’s. Fort Worth ISD does have a Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program (JJAEP). In those counties, expelled students are subject to compulsory attendance. Expelled students must attend the JJAEP if they are placed there, or another educational program provided by the school district. If an expelled student from a county that does not have a JJAEP moves to a county that has a mandatory JJAEP, the new school district may honor the expulsion under Chapter 37, but must assign the student to either the JJAEP or another educational program provided by the school district for expelled students.
Notwithstanding the above-described exemption from compulsory attendance, a school district has a continuing obligation under federal and state law to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE). To a student with a disability who has been removed for disciplinary reasons from his or her current educational placement, regardless of the population of the county in which the school district is located.
General Educational Degree (GED)
- Is a 17-Year-Old enrolled in a GED Course; The exemption from compulsory attendance for a child attending a GED course who is at least 17 years of age applies if:
- a) The child has the permission of the child’s parent or guardian to attend the course
- b) The child is required by court order to attend the course;
- c) The child has established a residence separate and apart from the child’s parent, guardian, or other person having lawful control; or d. The child is homeless.
- Is a 16-Year-Old enrolled in a GED Course; There is a separate exemption for a child attending a GED course who is at least 16 years old. This exemption applies if the student is recommended to take the course by a public agency that has supervision or custody of the child under a court order. Under Article 45.054 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, a county, justice, or municipal court that finds that a child is at least 16 years of age engaged in truant conduct may order the child to take a GED examination and to attend a preparatory course. The exemption applies to a 16-year-old attending a GED course who is enrolled in a Job Corps Training Program. These are the only conditions under which a 16 year-olds are exempt from compulsory attendance due to attending a GED course.
- Is enrolled in the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998;
- Is enrolled in the Texas Academy of Leadership in the Humanities;
- Is enrolled in the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science at the University of Texas at Brownsville;
- Is enrolled in the Texas Academy of International Studies; or
- Is specifically exempted under another law.
Compulsory Attendance Enforcement
A district may file an action to enforce compulsory attendance in any justice precinct in the county in which the school is located or in which the person filed against resides. Alternatively, an action may be filed in municipal court or, in a county with a population of 1.75 million or more, or in a constitutional county court. Section 25.093 provides for the deposit of one-half of a fine collected under that section to the credit of the open-enrollment is to proceed against the child in juvenile court as a “child in need of supervision” under §51.03 of the Texas Family Code. This option applies if the child is ten (10) years of age or older for conduct committed before becoming 18 years of age. It is an affirmative defense under both the Texas Education Code and the Texas Family Code that an absence has been excused by a school official or the court. For the student, there is also an affirmative defense for absences that are involuntary. The affirmative defenses apply only if there are an insufficient number of absences remaining to constitute an offense. A complaint or referral for ten (10) or more unexcused absences within six months must be made within 10 school days from the date of the student’s 10th absence. A court shall dismiss a complaint or referral that is not made in compliance with §25.0951.
A person required to attend school under §25.085 “may be excused for temporary absence resulting from any cause acceptable to the teacher, principal, or superintendent of the school in which the person is enrolled.” As discussed under “Duties of School Attendance Officer” below, excused absences are not counted when determining the number of absences that trigger a referral or complaint about failure to comply with the compulsory attendance requirement. Excused absences are counted in determining whether a student is in compliance with the attendance requirements for class credit, which are also discussed below, but local policies under §25.092 regarding the award of class credit may take into account whether an absence is excused.
A school district is required to excuse a student’s absence for observance of a religious holy day, for attending a required court appearance, to appear at a governmental office to complete paperwork required in connection with the student’s application for United States citizenship, to take part in a United States naturalization oath ceremony, or for services an election clerk. The period of an excused absence under §25.087(b) (1) includes travel time.
A school district must excuse a temporary absence for the purpose of an appointment with a health care professional if the student comes to school the day of the appointment, either before or after the appointment. An absence subject to this provision includes a temporary absence of the student diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder for an appointment with a health care practitioner to receive a generally recognized service for persons with autism spectrum disorder.
A district may excuse the absence of a student who is a junior or senior for the purpose of visiting an accredited institution of higher education if the district adopts a policy to determine when an absence will be excused for that purpose and a procedure to verify the visit. In addition, a school district may excuse a student in grades 6 through 12 for the purpose of sounding “Taps” at a military honors funeral held in this state for a deceased veteran.
A student whose absence is excused under Subsection (b) – (c) described above may not be penalized for the absence. In addition, the district must allow the student a reasonable time to make up missed schoolwork; the student is included in average daily attendance for that day. A student may not be included in average daily attendance for an absence that is excused for the reason that is not included under §25.087 (b)-(c). In the Fort Worth ISD, a student may participate in extracurricular activities on the day of an absence if the absence is an excused absence.
A school superintendent may excuse a student’s absence for the purpose of visiting with a parent or legal guardian who is an active duty member of the uniformed services and has been called to duty for, is on leave from, or immediately returned from deployment to combat zone or combat support posting.
Parents and students are responsible for making sure that written excuses for absences are submitted to the student’s school attendance office within five (5) school days of the absence to ensure that an absence is not marked as unexcused. Further, students must have a legitimate reason for arriving late or leaving early from school. Reasons for arriving late or leaving early from school must be in writing and submitted to the school attendance office.
Ninety Percent (90%) Rule (LAW)
A student who is in attendance for at least 75 percent, but less than 90 percent, of the days a class is offered, may be given credit if the student completes a plan approved by the principal that provides for the student to meet the instructional requirement of the class. If the student is under the jurisdiction of a court in a criminal or juvenile justice proceeding, the student may not receive credit by completing such a plan without the consent of the presiding judge.
The Board of Trustees is required to appoint one or more attendance committees to hear petitions from students who do not regain credit through a plan approved by the principal. An attendance committee may grant credit due to extenuating circumstances. The board is also required to adopt policies establishing alternative ways for such student to make up work or regain credit lost because of absences.
A District may establish ways to make up work or regain credit that is workable in consideration of the circumstances. Section §25.092 does not require that students spend a certain amount of time in a “Saturday School” or other educational settings equal to time missed during regular school hours. The district should be prepared with other options that give the student a reasonable opportunity to make up work or regain credit even under challenging circumstances, including excessive absences that occur late in the school year. Additionally, this law is not intended to penalize students for not attending a class before the student was enrolled in the class. Students, including migrant students or transfer students, who could not have attended a class before enrollment should not have the days of class that occurred before their enrollment counted against them for purposes of “the 90 percent rule”. As with any other student, to receive credit a student who enrolls after the instruction for the year or semester has begun is required to demonstrate academic achievement and proficiency of the subject matter as required under §28.021 and 19 T.A.C.§74.26.
If a district offers an educational program outside of regular school hours as a means for students to make up work or regain credit, under §11.158(a)(15) and (h), a district may charge a fee for such an education program under restricted circumstances. The school district may assess the fee only if the student returns a form signed by the student’s parent or legal guardian stating that the fee would not create a financial hardship or discourage the student from attending the program. The fee may not exceed $50. Also, under §25.092(b) and (f), the Board must provide at least one alternative for making up work or regaining credit that does not require a student pay a fee under §11.158(a)(15). The availability of that alternative must be substantially the same as the availability of an educational program for which a fee is charged.