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Truancy Charges in Rhode Island

In the state of Rhode Island, children between the ages of 6 and 18 are required to attend school. Under Rhode Island Truancy Law, if a child is absent or late for school too many times without a valid excuse, the school district can declare the child “willfully and habitually absent.” Truancy charges can result in consequences for the parent or guardian, including fines of up to $50 a day for up to 30 days. If the child is late or absent more than 30 days in a single school year, the parents or guardians can be fined up to $500 and sentenced to up to six months in jail.

Disagreements with the School District

Of course, parents may not agree with the school district that their child was actually “willfully and habitually absent.” For an absence to be willful, the child must have intentionally decided not to attend school or not to arrive on time when they were supposed to.

There may be a disagreement between the parents and the school district about whether the child was sick and unable to attend school, or the parents may not have communicated clearly enough with the school district about the reason for their child’s absence.

Some children are absent because they decide to leave school in the middle of the school day. The school district may feel that this is the responsibility of the parents, while the parents may feel that the school district should take responsibility for the child’s actions while in school.

The child may have been late due to transportation issues such as problems with traffic or vehicle breakdowns.

These disagreements can often result in a summons to Truancy Court. Truancy Court hearings are often held at a local school rather than the courthouse. The Truancy Court in Warwick, Rhode Island, is considered a model program because of its emphasis on helping families that are having problems rather than simply imposing punishments. However, there are some factors to consider before you take advantage of this program. If you receive such a summons because of a disagreement with the school district, you can only fight the charges by asking to have your case transferred to Family Court. If you don’t take this step, you will not have the opportunity to prove that your child’s absences were legitimate. Truancy Court also carries a number of other requirements.

Truancy Court Requirements

To participate in the Truancy Court Program and avoid facing charges in Family Court, your child must concede to having been “willfully and habitually absent” without a legitimate reason. They will then be expected to appear in Truancy Court every week, possibly in the company of the parent or guardian. The Truancy Court magistrate will check the attendance and disciplinary records every week before this hearing to make sure that the child is coming to school on time and staying out of trouble. The court will continue to oversee your child until your child turns 19 or the court is satisfied with their progress and decides to drop the case.

The Truancy Court magistrate can also impose a number of other requirements such as a curfew or drug testing and can require your child to produce a doctor’s note for any absences caused by being sick. The court can even order for your child to be placed into foster care if it considers that necessary.

Your Rights as a Parent

If you receive a summons to appear in Truancy Court with your child, it’s important to know what your rights are under Rhode Island truancy law. You have the right to be informed of any charges against your child with sufficient advance notice to find out the facts about the case. You have the right to bring a truancy attorney to the hearing, and you have the right to have the case transferred to family court so you can prove that your child wasn’t actually truant. You have the right to an interpreter if you need one, and you have the right to see any relevant documents such as reports about your child. The magistrate should explain the requirements and potential consequences of the Truancy Court Program, as listed above. One advantage of retaining a truancy attorney is to make sure that all your rights are respected.

What You Can Do

If you have a disagreement with your school district about your child’s absences, the first step you should take is to check the school’s own records. If your child went home due to illness after a visit to the nurse, the school will have a report on file. Those reports can help show that your child’s absences were legitimate under Rhode Island truancy law.

If your child has a chronic or ongoing health problem that may cause frequent absences, the school should work with you to develop a health plan. The health plan should cover the likelihood that your child will have more absences than other children and prevent future problems with the school district.

If the problem is that your child keeps leaving school in the middle of the day, the school district has every reason to be concerned. Children who cut classes are much more likely to get in trouble for shoplifting, vandalism, or even burglary, making truancy a much more serious issue for your child’s future than it might initially appear. Getting a child to stay in school can be a challenging prospect, but one approach that can work is to make a plan with your child including rewards for consistent school attendance.

If the problem is mostly a transportation issue, consider leaving early or having your child take the bus to avoid tardiness.

If you believe that you have been treated unfairly by the school district, your next step should be to contact a truancy attorney.

Can a Lawyer Help?

An experienced truancy attorney can help with these issues, either by helping you resolve a dispute with the school district or by representing you in court if necessary. In Warwick, Rhode Island, Veronica Assalone and her colleagues at Assalone & Associates, LLC, have extensive experience with truancy law. You can reach Assalone & Associates, LLC, at (401) 589-5599 for a free consultation by phone.

Our senior attorney, Veronica Assalone, is proficient in Spanish, French, German, Italian and American Sign Language. Our office assistant speaks Spanish.

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