Prevention of Educational Neglect
The Prevention of Educational Neglect (PEN) Program receives referrals for kindergarten through 5th grade students in St. Joseph County who have been identified as having excessive unexcused absences. The PEN case managers coordinate with the parents and schools to help ensure that the student attends school on a regular basis.
Why was I referred to the CASIE Center Prevention of Education Neglect Program (PEN)?
Elementary schools in St. Joseph County can refer a student that has unexcused absences to the PEN Program. The PEN Program's goal is to work with you to help make sure your child has every opportunity to attend school and gain the education they deserve.
What happens after a referral has been made?
The PEN case manager will meet with you to gather further information about your child's attendance and work with you to come up with an action plan to make sure your child is able to attend school regularly. Parents will be expected to have children at school daily, on time without tardies and to provide a note if the student is too ill to attend school. The case manager will monitor your child's attendance, communicate with the school and follow up with you regarding progress and improvements needed. The Case Manager can also help brainstorm solutions to issues you may face or link you with services in the community.
What is the Compulsory School Attendance Law in Indiana (I.C. 20-33-2-6)?
In Indiana, school aged children are expected to attend school each of the 180 days that school is in session. Children are to be enrolled no later than the school year in which the child turns 7 years old and are required to attend school until the age of 18 or graduated from high school (with a few expectations). Parents are held responsible for ensuring that their child attends school on a regularly basis.
What is considered an excused absences?
Excused absences are determined by your child's school and should be listed in the student handbook, but usually include illness, medical or mental health appointments and religious observations. The parent is required to provide a note to the school explaining why the student has missed school and the date(s) missed. Most schools do not consider transportation issues or vacations as excusable absences.
Why does the school now say I have to provide doctor notes?
After a certain number of absences, predetermined by the school corporation, the school can require that all additional absences be excused only by a note from a doctor/professional. Absences that do not have a doctor note after this point, can be marked as unexcused, even if you have provided a note from home.
What is a "habitual truant?"
When a student has missed 10 or more unexcused absences, they are considered a habitual truant and other agencies can become involved to help ensure your child attends school.
What can happen if my child continues to miss days after working with the program and has been identified as a habitual truant?
Per the St. Joseph County Prosecuting Attorney - "It is unlawful for a parent to fail to ensure that his/her child attends school and can be charged with a class B Misdemeanor which can result in up to 180 days in jail and fines of 1,000.00. Pursuant to statute, some cases will be reviewed for felony charges."
Families can also be referred to the Department of Child Services for educational neglect.
The PEN Program case managers are here to work with you to correct the attendance issues so that you do not have to be involved with the legal system or the Department of Child Services. However, failing to communicate with your case manager or to follow the action plan to improve attendance can lead to a referral to these other agencies.