Este folleto responde algunas de las preguntas más frecuentes acerca de los derechos de los estudiantes y de los padres en relación con el tribunal de absentismo escolar.

¿QUE ES EL PROGRAMA DE TRIBUNAL DE ABSENTISMO ESCOLAR?
La ley de Rhode Island requiere que todos los estudiantes de entre 6 y 18 años asistan a la escuela. La ley también permite a los distritos escolares entablar acciones legales en el Tribunal de Familia de Rhode Island contra los estudiantes que "deliberadamente y habitualmente se ausentan" de la escuela en un esfuerzo para obligar a esos niños a ir a la escuela. Algunos distritos escolares de Rhode Island establecen el número específico de ausencias injustificadas o tardanzas que un estudiante debe tener antes de que el estudiante pueda ser considerado "deliberadamente y habitualmente ausente". Otros no.

En un esfuerzo por manejar asuntos de ausentismo escolar de manera informal y más cerca de casa, el Tribunal de Familia ha establecido un programa de corte de ausentismo escolar para supervisar estos procedimientos legales. El tribunal de ausentismo se reúne en fechas designadas en las escuelas intermedias y secundarias en todo el estado y es presidido por magistrados que trabajan estrechamente con las escuelas. En la mayoría de los casos, el caso de su hijo se remitirá automáticamente al Programa de ausentismo escolar. Sin embargo, no está obligado a participar en ese programa. Usted puede solicitar que el magistrado transfiera su caso al Tribunal de Familia - donde, a diferencia del Tribunal de ausentismo, un abogado le será proporcionado si usted no puede pagar uno. Si decide permanecer en el Tribunal de Ausentismo, hay consecuencias legales al aceptar participar.

¿CUÁLES SON LAS CONSECUENCIAS PARA PARTICIPAR EN EL PROGRAMA DE TRIBUNAL DE ABSENTISMO?
Al aceptar participar en los procedimientos del Tribunal de ausentismo escolar que se llevan a cabo en las escuelas ante un magistrado, su hijo:

  • Debe admitir que está ausente y renunciar a cualquier derecho a reclamar que sus ausencias eran legítimas.
  • Se le requerirá asistir a las audiencias del tribunal de ausencia regularmente (generalmente una vez por semana) con un padre o tutor legal
  • Antes de cada audiencia, el magistrado consultara con la escuela para averiguar que si su hijo asiste a la escuela, se comporta, y hace la tarea
  • Sera sujeto a la supervisión del tribunal de ausentismo escolar hasta que el tribunal decida desestimar el caso contra su hijo/a, o cumplan 19 años de edad
  • Puede ser requerido a presentar una nota del doctor por cada ausencia de la escuela debido a una enfermedad
  • Puede ser requerido a someterse a prueba de drogas
  • Puede ser sujeto a un toque de queda o confinamiento en el hogar
  • Puede ser removido de la casa y colocado en un hogar de crianza temporal

DERECHOS DE LOS PADRES
Como en cualquier procedimiento legal, los padres y tutores legales tienen ciertos derechos:

  • Tiene derecho a conocer los cargos contra su hijo/a
  • Tiene derecho a conocer esos cargos lo suficientemente antes de cualquier audiencia para que pueda confirmar si son exactos y legítimos
  • Tiene derecho a hablar con un abogado antes del procedimiento y traer un abogado con usted. Usted tiene el derecho a mantener que su hijo/a es inocente
  • Tiene derecho a que su caso sea escuchado ante un juez en el tribunal de familia en lugar de participar en el programa de tribunal de ausencia
  • Tiene derecho a ser informado de las consecuencias de participar en el programa de tribunal de ausentismo
  • Tiene derecho a que se le proporcione un interprete al presentarse ante los tribunales y que los documentos legales sean traducidos
  • Tiene derecho a ver cualquiera de los informes escritos presentados al tribunal de ausentismo por la escuela sobre su hijo/a

¿QUÉ SUCEDE EN LOS PROCEDIMIENTOS DEL PROGRAMA DEL TRIBUNAL DE ABSENTISMO?
Usted y su hijo/a deben recibir una citación que requiere que usted comparezca ante el Tribunal de Ausentismo en una escuela de su distrito. La primera vez que usted aparezca, el magistrado debe explicar los procedimientos judiciales, revisar todas las opciones disponibles para usted e informarle de su derecho a que su caso sea transferido al Tribunal de Familia.

Si usted y su hijo / a deciden participar en la corte de absentismo escolar, se le pedirá a su hijo / a que firme papeles en los cuales él o ella acepte asistir a la escuela todos los días, ser puntual, comportarse en la escuela y clase y completar todo el trabajo de clase y tarea. Hora

Una vez a la semana por lo menos durante todo el año escolar y quizás más tiempo, su hijo puede ser requerido a comparecer ante el magistrado y los administradores de la escuela. También se le puede requerir asistir. En las audiencias, se supone que los administradores escolares deben informar al magistrado acerca de la asistencia, el comportamiento y los logros académicos de su hijo. Si su hijo no hace lo que se espera de él, el magistrado puede castigarlo.

1. What is “truancy,” and who is covered by truancy laws?

A.What is “truancy,” and who is covered by truancy laws?

A.

RI truancy laws apply to any child who is enrolled in kindergarten or between the ages of 6 (as of September 1 of the school year) and 18. The truancy law requires children to “regularly attend” school “during all the days and hours” when school is in session.  There are some exceptions to this requirement. For example, the law states that a child is not “truant” when the absences are due to a “physical or mental condition” that made attendance “inexpedient or impracticable.” In addition, a child is not “truant” if the child is attending a home-school program that has been approved by the school committee.

2. What can a school district do if it claims that a child is truant?

A.What can a school district do if it claims that a child is truant?

A.

RI law permits school districts to bring legal proceedings in Family Court against children who the school district claims are “willfully and habitually absent” from school. The law also allows school districts to file lawsuits against the child’s legal guardian, and to charge them with “neglect” for failing to enforce school attendance.

3. What is the Truancy Court program?

A.What is the Truancy Court program?

A.

In school districts where the Family Court operates a Truancy Court Program, a Family Court magistrate comes to one or more of the district’s middle or high schools on designated dates to hold truancy hearings. Students and their legal guardians are not required to participate in the Truancy Court Program.  But if they opt to participate, and they cannot afford a private attorney, they forgo their right to be represented by a court-appointed attorney. Importantly, if a student or legal guardian opts to have truancy proceedings remain in Family Court, they retain this right to a court-appointed attorney.  If they decide to remain in Truancy Court, there are legal consequences to agreeing to participate, which are described elsewhere in this pamphlet. Not all school districts participate in in the Truancy Court Program. If a school district does not participate, truancy cases are heard in Family Court. There, the child and legal guardians have the right to dispute the truancy charges. And if the child does not have funds for an attorney, an attorney will be appointed to represent them.  That attorney can often help present evidence explaining the absences and challenge the claim that the child is truant.

4. What happens at Truancy Court program proceedings?

A.What happens at Truancy Court program proceedings?

A.

The first contact with the Truancy Court Program may be a written notice via postal mail, that the child has been referred to Family Court for truancy.  This notice may also include the location, time and date of an initial hearing before a magistrate. If the child and legal guardian don’t attend that hearing,  they may later be served with a summons, which requires them to appear before the Truancy Court at a school in the district. At the first hearing before a magistrate in Truancy Court, the magistrate should explain court procedures and go over all the options available. The child and legal guardian will be given the choice of (1) remaining in the Truancy Court Program for further hearings on a regular basis, but only if they admit that the child has been truant, or (2) having the case transferred to the Family Court, where, unlike in Truancy Court, an attorney will be provided if the child cannot afford one, and the child can present evidence challenging the school district’s claim that they were truant. Truancy Court proceedings are recorded in case any disputes arise.

5. What are the consequences to participating in the Truancy Court program?

A.What are the consequences to participating in the Truancy Court program?

A.

By agreeing to participate in the Truancy Court Program that is held in schools before a magistrate, the child:

Must admit to being truant and must give up any right to claim that their absences were legitimate

Will be asked to sign papers in which they will agree to attend school every day, be on time, behave in school and class, and complete all class work and homework on time

May miss class time in order to attend these hearings

Will be required to attend Truancy Court hearings on a regular basis (usually once per week and often for many months or more) – often with a legal guardian

Will be subject to the oversight of the Truancy Court for up to one year, unless the Court determines there is good cause to continue monitoring for longer

May be required to submit a doctor’s note for every absence from school due to illness

May be required to submit to drug testing

May be subject to a curfew or home confinement

May be removed from the home and placed in foster care

In addition, legal guardians may be required to sign a “Release of Confidential Information” authorizing the child’s health care providers to release information about the child to the Truancy Court. Before each hearing, the magistrate will also check with the school to find out whether the child is attending school, going to all their classes, completing assignments, and whether any school staff has reported any misbehavior by the child. If the child or legal guardian asks the case to be transferred to the Family Court, they may still be required to attend multiple hearings, but often those are less frequent, such as once a month.  And if the Family Court finds that the child was truant, it may make orders similar to those in Truancy Court, such as an order to submit to drug testing, curfews, home confinement or even foster care.

6. What are the rights of legal guardians regarding Truancy Court?

A.What are the rights of legal guardians regarding Truancy Court?

A.

As in any legal proceeding, legal guardians have certain rights. For example, they have the right to:

  • Know the charges against the child
  • Know those charges far enough in advance of any hearing so that they can confirm whether they are accurate and legitimate
  • Present evidence that all or some of the absences were excused and therefore should not serve as a basis for the truancy action
  • Speak with a lawyer before the proceeding and to bring a lawyer with them
  • Maintain that the child is innocent, but in order to do so, they may have to have the case transferred from the Truancy Court Program to Family Court
  • Have the case heard before a judge in Family Court instead of participating in the Truancy Court Program. Unlike in Truancy Court, they will be provided a court-appointed attorney in Family Court if they cannot afford one
  • Be informed by the court of the consequences of participating in the Truancy Court Program
  • Be provided with an interpreter for court appearances and translation of court documents
  • View any of the written reports submitted to the Truancy Court by the child’s school

7. Have you run into problems in the Rhode Island truancy program?

A.Have you run into problems in the Rhode Island truancy program?

A.

The ACLU of RI wants to ensure that the rights of  students and legal guardians are protected during Truancy Court proceedings. If you have questions or concerns about the way you have been treated in Truancy Court or believe that unfair conditions have been imposed on your child, please contact us at (401) 831-7171 or info@riaclu.org.