Bill to excuse student absences for civics events attendance clears committee

Bill to excuse student absences for civics events attendance clears committee

TRENTON, N.J. – Students will be permitted one excused absence per school year to attend a civics event under a bill that cleared the Assembly State and Local Government Committee Monday.

The bill (A1271), sponsored by Assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney, would allow students in grades 6-12 at least one such excused absence, with more at the school district’s discretion. Parents or guardians must alert the district of the absence five days in advance and provide any supporting documentation the superintendent or building principal requests as proof of participation.

“Academics is just one part of a well-rounded education,” said Rooney (R-Bergen). “While it is important to keep up with studies and homework, students should also be encouraged to be active, engaged citizens in the world from a young age.”

Rooney spearheaded the effort to bring this bill to the floor while garnering bipartisan input from the community at-large. “After hearing from parents and even students around my district about their desire to engage in civic activities that may take place during the school day, I simply could not ignore the need for this legislation,” said Rooney.

According to the New Jersey Department of Education, religious holiday observances, college visits, bring your child to work day, participation in observance of Veteran’s Day or board of elections membership activities, and closure of busing district leaving students without transportation to receiving district are excused absences. All other absences are considered unexcused and counted against students’ attendance records. Students who accumulate 10 or more unexcused absences are considered truant.

This bill calls for the Commissioner of Education to establish a list of mandatory excused absences for certain events, while individual school districts have the authority to expand the list as they deem appropriate.

Rooney’s bill was advanced out of the Assembly Education Committee last year and is expected to have bipartisan support when it is posted for a vote of the full General Assembly.