§ 16-19-1. Attendance required.
(a) Every child who has completed, or will have completed, six (6) years of life on or before September 1 of any school year, or is enrolled in kindergarten, and has not completed eighteen (18) years of life, shall regularly attend some public day school during all the days and hours that the public schools are in session in the city or town in which the child resides. The public school shall be responsible for regular attendance data monitoring of all students and early identification of emergent truant behavior. Prior to referring truant students to family court, schools must do their due diligence to assure all interventions have taken place. This includes, and is not limited to:
(1) Consultation with the parent or guardian; and
(2) Coordination with the student’s school-identified support team such as the individualized education plan, behavioral support, or attendance teams.
Every person having under his or her control a child, as described in this section, shall cause the child to attend school as required by this section, and for every neglect of this duty, the person having control of the child shall be fined not exceeding fifty dollars ($50.00) for each day, or part of a day, that the child fails to attend school, and if the total of these days is more than thirty (30) school days during any school year, then the person shall, upon conviction, be imprisoned not exceeding six (6) months or shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars ($500), or both; provided, that if the person so charged shall prove that the child has attended, for the required period of time, a private day school approved by the commissioner of elementary and secondary education pursuant to § 16-60-6(10); or a course of at-home instruction approved by the school committee of the town where the child resides; or has been accepted into an accredited postsecondary education program; or has obtained a waiver under subsection (b); or that the physical or mental condition of the child was such as to render his or her attendance at school inexpedient or impracticable; or that the child was excluded from school by virtue of some other general law or regulation, then attendance shall not be obligatory nor shall the penalty be incurred.
(b) A waiver to the compulsory attendance requirement may be granted by the superintendent only upon proof that the pupil has an alternative learning plan for obtaining either a high school diploma or its equivalent.
(1) Alternative-learning plans shall include age-appropriate academic rigor and the flexibility to incorporate the pupil’s interests and manner of learning. These plans may include, but are not limited to, such components, or combination of components, of extended learning opportunities as independent study, private instruction, performing groups, internships, community service, apprenticeships, and online courses that are currently funded and available to the school department and/or the community. In developing these alternative-learning plans, consideration shall be given to the unique difficulties and interruptions that many students are experiencing because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, these alternative-learning plans may incorporate alternatives and extended breaks in study that would not be considered preferable under non-pandemic circumstances.
(2) Alternative-learning plans shall be developed, and amended if necessary, in consultation with the pupil, a school guidance counselor, the school principal, and at least one parent or guardian of the pupil, and submitted to the superintendent for approval. An alternative-learning plan may, but is not required to, incorporate an extended withdrawal as set forth in this section.
(3)(i) If the superintendent does not approve the alternative-learning plan, the parent or guardian of the pupil may appeal such decision to the school committee. A parent or guardian may appeal the decision of the school committee to the commissioner of education pursuant to chapter 39 of this title (hereinafter collectively referred to as the “reviewing body”).
(ii) In making decisions regarding the approval of an alternative-learning plan, consideration shall be given to the unique difficulties and interruptions that many students are experiencing because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, alternative-learning plans may be approved that may incorporate alternatives and extended breaks in study that would not be considered preferable under non-pandemic circumstances. The provisions of this section shall not require the approval of an alternative-learning plan that the reviewing body determines is not in the best interests of the child.
(iii) In addition, this section authorizes the granting of an extended withdrawal from school. An extended withdrawal from school is a withdrawal that may be authorized that is not intended to be a permanent withdrawal but that is extended because of unique difficulties and interruptions that many students are experiencing because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A student in an extended withdrawal shall still be considered to be enrolled in school and will not need to be re-enrolled for purposes of returning to the student’s regular classes. An extended withdrawal may authorize a student to be excused from taking any classes during the withdrawal period or to undertake a reduced number of classes than the student would otherwise take as an enrolled student. An extended withdrawal shall include provisions to periodically monitor and check-in on the status of the student and the student’s ability to return to the public school learning environment. An extended withdrawal pursuant to this subsection may be granted to any student, regardless of age.
(c) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to limit or otherwise interfere with the rights of teachers and other school employees to collectively bargain pursuant to chapters 9.3 and 9.4 of title 28 or to allow any school committee to abrogate any agreement reached by collective bargaining.
(d) No school shall use a student’s truancy or absenteeism as the sole basis for using an out-of-school suspension as a disciplinary action.
History of Section.
G.L. 1896, ch. 64, § 1; P.L. 1902, ch. 1009, § 1; G.L. 1909, ch. 72, § 1; P.L. 1917, ch. 1492, § 1; P.L. 1922, ch. 2234, § 14; G.L. 1923, ch. 76, § 1; P.L. 1923, ch. 482, § 1; P.L. 1925, ch. 678, § 3; P.L. 1926, ch. 812, § 1; P.L. 1936, ch. 2360, § 1; P.L. 1937, ch. 2505, § 1; G.L. 1938, ch. 181, § 1; G.L. 1956, § 16-19-1; P.L. 1984, ch. 345, § 1; P.L. 1988, ch. 642, § 4; P.L. 1989, ch. 251, § 1; P.L. 1995, ch. 60, § 1; P.L. 2002, ch. 233, § 1; P.L. 2002, ch. 255, § 1; P.L. 2003, ch. 394, § 1; P.L. 2007, ch. 226, § 2; P.L. 2011, ch. 338, § 1; P.L. 2011, ch. 376, § 1; P.L. 2012, ch. 111, § 1; P.L. 2012, ch. 125, § 1; P.L. 2016, ch. 467, § 2; P.L. 2016, ch. 471, § 2; P.L. 2022, ch. 368, § 1, effective June 29, 2022; P.L. 2022, ch. 369, § 1, effective June 29, 2022; P.L. 2022, ch. 389, § 1, effective June 30, 2022; P.L. 2022, ch. 390, § 1, effective June 30, 2022.