HB 14: Changes to Utah’s Truancy Law
This bill passed the house with a vote of 63-5, and passed the senate with a vote of 26-0.
Utah’s truancy laws have undergone some important changes in recent years, most notably the requirement that these “status offenses” (non-criminal behavior) are dealt with outside of the court, where severe punishments can begin and compound.
Representative Lowry Snow has spearheaded these reform efforts through past juvenile justice legislation. This year, he is sponsoring House Bill 14 which aims to create some standardized definitions for truancy that schools must follow. For example, a public school student would be truant if they are “absent for at least half of the school day” or “at least 30 minutes late for a class or the school day for a total of five separate times per semester.”
The bill would that the penalties associated with truancy can only be imposed on students in grade 7 or above—removing such penalties for younger children. Additionally, the current crime for parents who continue to allow their children to be truant—a crime we have previously tried to repeal—would be narrowed to only apply to students in grade 1 through 6. This would ensure that parents would not be punished for the truant actions of their older (and more independent) children.
These clarifications and policy changes are an important step toward improving parental rights in public education and ensuring that the provision of education services is not closely tied to punitive enforcement for failure to comply.