After Uvalde massacre, state lawmaker eyeing how schools address truancy

New bills aimed at cracked down on truancy

The Robb Elementary School shooter had hundreds of unexcused absences, and a House investigative report noted it was unclear whether any attempts were made by the school district to find out what was happening in the teen’s life before he was involuntarily withdrawn.

Republican State Sen. Paul Bettencourt Dist. 7 now plans to file a trio of bills that could revamp how schools deal with chronically truant students.

“We don’t appear to be doing anything that relates to best practices as top-down guidelines anymore,” said Bettencourt.

Bettencourt said one bill would address data collection to understand the scope of the problem. According to data from the Texas Education Agency, there were a combined 132,125 cases of truancy last school year for Houston, Katy, Cy-Fair, Galveston, Conroe, Fort Bend, and Spring school districts.

“We’re not collecting any data on a campus level, we’re just doing it on a school district level,” said Bettencourt.

Bettencourt said this data will help determine where more resources are needed. A student is considered truant if they have 10 or more unexcused absences in a six-month period.

“One of the bills is looking at unexcused absences because it’s a precursor to truancy and we’re not collecting any data on that,” said Bettencourt.

Bettencourt said another bill would help create a set of best practices in how schools tackle the problem of chronically truant students. How schools currently address this problem varies from district to district.

“We’re going to have to look at all this and get some type of framework that makes sense,” said Bettencourt. “Bottom line is, we got to do something about this problem because this is not trending well for the kids, the families, or society.”

Bettencourt said another consideration is reinstituting a criminal component to truancy laws in certain cases.

KPRC 2 will update this story when the bills are filed and hearings begin.

About the Author:

Award winning investigative journalist who joined KPRC 2 in July 2000. Husband and father of the Master of Disaster and Chaos Gremlin. “I don’t drink coffee to wake up, I wake up to drink coffee.”