A bill meant to curb the District’s rampant truancy moved forward in the D.C. Council on Wednesday after its sponsor stripped out a controversial provision that would have mandated criminal prosecution of parents of chronically absent children.
The council’s Education Committee voted unanimously in favor of the amended bill, which specifies how and when a student’s unexcused absences would trigger the notification of parents and government intervention.
“The committee has crafted an updated bill that ensures that parents know their responsibilities, that government agencies are held accountable for preventing truancy and that chronically truant students do not fall through the cracks,” said David A. Catania (I-At Large), the bill’s sponsor and the committee’s chairman, adding that he amended the bill to address concerns that Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s administration has raised.
The bill now goes to the committee of the whole, which is expected to consider it next month.
Catania’s original proposal would have required officials to prosecute parents whose children reach 20 unexcused absences in a school year. That measure drew resistance from community members who called it overly harsh and from D.C Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan, who argued that it usurped his authority to determine when prosecution is appropriate.