OLR Bill Analysis

SB 217

AN ACT CONCERNING EXCUSED ABSENCES FROM SCHOOL FOR CHILDREN OF SERVICE MEMBERS.

SUMMARY:

This bill requires local or regional boards of education to grant 10 days of excused absence in any school year to any student whose parent or legal guardian is an active duty member of the uniformed services who (1) has been called for, (2) is on leave from, or (3) has immediately returned from deployment in a combat zone or combat support posting. It also allows the boards to grant additional excused absences for such visits.

The bill does not define “active duty member of the uniformed services.” But based on the federal definition of “active duty” (see BACKGROUND), the bill appears to apply to children of full-time members of the U.S. Armed Forces, but not National Guard members or reservists. Like the bill, the existing Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, to which Connecticut is a signatory, allows the boards to grant additional excused absences under the circumstances outlined in the bill. Under the compact, active duty service members include National Guard members and reservists.

Under the bill, the student and parent or legal guardian are responsible for (1) getting assignments from the student's teacher before leaving and (2) ensuring the assignments are completed before the student returns to school.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2014

BACKGROUND

Active Duty

Federal law defines “active duty” as full-time duty in the U.S. military services. The definition does not include the National Guard and the Reserves (10 USC 101(d)(1)). Federal law defines “uniformed services” as members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Public Health Services (10 USC 101(a)(5)).

Unexcused and Excused Absences

By law, students are allowed up to three unexcused absences in a month or up to nine unexcused absences in a school year before they are considered truants.

According to the State Board of Education's definitions of excused and unexcused absences, an absence is considered excused if:

1. for absences one through nine, the student provides written documentation (i.e., a signed note from parent or guardian) of the reason for the absence submitted within 10 school days after returning to school and

2. for the 10th and any additional absences, the student provides the same written documentation giving one of the following reasons for the absence: (a) the student's illness (with appropriate verification from a medical professional), (b) observance of a religious holiday, (c) death in the family or other emergency beyond the family's control, (d) mandated court appearance, (e) lack of transportation that the district normally provides, or (f) extraordinary educational opportunity pre-approved by the district in accordance with SDE guidance.

An absence is considered unexcused unless it meets one of the definitions of an excused absence or is a disciplinary absence. All other absences are unexcused.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Veterans' Affairs Committee

Joint Favorable Change of Reference

Yea

14

Nay

0

(03/11/2014)

Education Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

32

Nay

0

(03/24/2014)