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Indiana lawmakers aim to address student absenteeism in legislative session

This photo shows the front of a school bus on the road.
WFIU
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State data shows one in five Indiana students are absent from school nearly a month of the year.

Lawmakers agree it’s important for kids to be in school. However, they have different ideas on how to address chronic absenteeism during the upcoming legislative session and get kids in classrooms.

State data shows one in five Indiana students are missing nearly a month of school each year.

Lawmakers agree it’s important for kids to be in school. However, they have different ideas on how to address chronic absenteeism during the upcoming legislative session and get kids in classrooms.

Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) said existing truancy laws have been loosely enforced since the pandemic and need to be upheld and more strictly enforced.

Bray said younger students and their parents can work with the Indiana Department of Child Services to address barriers that cause absences.

He said older students could end up in court.

“You have a juvenile delinquency where you can get the kids into court and have the judges motivate them and work with them so that they understand the importance of finishing out school,” he said.

READ MORE: New data shows about 221,000 Indiana students struggle with chronic absenteeism

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues, including our project Civically, Indiana.

Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) said a heavy-handed approach likely won’t solve the problem.

“I don't think we're going to send the police out to drag Johnny out of the house,” he said. “I just don't think this society is ready to do that.”

DeLaney said Indiana’s push for school choice and divisive policies on topics like the content of library books have eroded students’ and parents’ faith in public education. He said that makes parents less inclined to force their children to go to school.

He added that state officials should take pride in Indiana schools and tell students and parents about how important school is to children’s growth.

“The number one thing is to say this is an important parental duty and a child's opportunity and spread that message,” he said.

Lawmakers hope that improving attendance will prevent additional learning loss and boost low third grade reading scores.

Kirsten is our education reporter. Contact her at kadair@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.
Copyright 2023 IPB News.

Kirsten Adair