PC Juvenile Court, School Officials Join Forces To Prevent Truancy

New State Law Promotes Collaboration to Address Poor School Attendance

The Paulding County Juvenile Court recently organized a meeting with area school administrators, the Paulding County Prosecutor’s Office and other local leaders to discuss the implementation of Ohio’s new truancy law. The collaborative effort will lead to the development of new procedures and programming aimed at keeping more students in school. Ohio’s new truancy law, which took effect during the current 2017-2018 school year, seeks to detect truancy early, provide assistance to families through cooperation with community entities, get students back in school, and reduce the number of truancy cases filed in juvenile court.

“For too many students in Paulding County, truancy is a major hurdle in the pursuit of a quality education,” said Steve Arnold, superintendent of the Western Buckeye Educational Service Center (ESC). “On behalf of the three school districts in Paulding County, the Western Buckeye ESC is very pleased to be partnering with Judge Wehrkamp and the Paulding County Juvenile Court to bring positive changes in the area of truancy.”

The implementation of the new state truancy law comes at a time when Paulding County’s school districts and Juvenile Court are embracing cooperative efforts to help students and families. With funds earned through a competitive grant, the Juvenile Court has partnered with the Western Buckeye ESC to create a new Diversion/Attendance Officer position for the county’s three school districts. Elizabeth Zartman, a Paulding County native, has been hired to serve as the county’s first Diversion/Attendance Officer and facilitated the recent meeting with school officials. In her new role, Zartman is now present in the schools during the day to assist them in addressing attendance issues, while also acting as a liaison between the schools and Juvenile Court.

“Since taking office, one of my top priorities has been to improve communication and collaboration with the schools,” said Judge Wehrkamp. “Especially considering all of the changes to Ohio’s truancy laws, our partnership with Western Buckeye ESC and educators is coming at just the right time, and I thank our school leaders for their willingness to embrace new ways of working together.”

Judge Wehrkamp believes it is important to take a proactive approach and ramp up collective efforts to implement the new truancy law.

“While the new law sets minimum requirements for schools and juvenile courts to follow, with the creation of our new Diversion/Attendance Officer position and our county wide partnerships, we are proudly going above and beyond the minimum standards to help our students.”

Zartman added, “Developing realistic plans to combat truancy problems will reduce filings in the juvenile court and strengthen our community.”

Participating in the recent truancy law meeting led by Zartman were representatives from Antwerp Local Schools, Paulding Exempted Village Schools, Wayne Trace Local Schools, and Synergy Learning Center, as well as Juvenile Court Judge Michael Wehrkamp, Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Burkard, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Miller, and Allen Rutter, Director of Shalom Counseling and Mediation Services.

Notable Changes to Ohio’s Truancy Law

– Under the new law, schools are required to send notification letters to parents and implement a student-specific absence intervention plan before a complaint may be filed in juvenile court. Previously, truancy was addressed in juvenile court, with complaints filed once students reached a certain number of unexcused absences.

– School absences are now tracked by hours, rather than days, which means that a student who is late to school or leaves early is working his or her way toward attendance interventions and possibly court involvement. The county’s school districts are updating their attendance policies to reflect this and other changes brought about by House Bill 410 (131st General Assembly).

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