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SENATE DOCKET, NO. 981         FILED ON: 1/20/2011

SENATE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 185

 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

_________________

PRESENTED BY:

Sonia Chang-Diaz

_______________

To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in General
              Court assembled:

              The undersigned legislators and/or citizens respectfully petition for the adoption of the accompanying bill:

An Act preventing students from dropping out of school..

_______________

PETITION OF:

 

Name:

District/Address:

Sonia Chang-Diaz

 

Denise Provost

27th Middlesex

Elizabeth A. Malia

11th Suffolk

Karen E. Spilka

 

Stephen R. Canessa

12th Bristol

James B. Eldridge

 

Sal N. DiDomenico

Middlesex, Suffolk, and Essex

Benjamin Swan

11th Hampden

Linda Dorcena Forry

12th Suffolk


SENATE DOCKET, NO. 981        FILED ON: 1/20/2011

SENATE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 185

By Ms. Chang-Diaz, a petition (accompanied by bill, Senate, No. 185) of Sonia Chang-Diaz, Denise Provost, Elizabeth A. Malia, Karen E. Spilka and other members of the General Court for legislation to prevent students from dropping out of school.  Education. 


The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
 

_______________

In the Year Two Thousand Eleven

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An Act preventing students from dropping out of school..
 

              Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
 

                                 SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE

                                 This act may be cited as the “Dropout Prevention Act.”

                                 SECTION 2.  Chapter 69 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2008 Official Edition, is hereby amended by adding after section 1I, line 40, the following paragraphs:

                                 All individual public schools that instruct students in grades kindergarten through grade 12 shall use the early warning indicator index system developed and piloted by the department of elementary and secondary education.  Individual public schools shall collect all necessary data required for the use of the early warning indicator index system as decided by the department of elementary and secondary education, provided that specific data variables may change as the department of elementary and secondary education continues to update, improve, and refine the early warning indicator index. The department of elementary and secondary education shall offer school districts guidance and support on how to collect, review, and use the early warning indicator index system to best serve the students, teachers, and school staff members. The department of elementary and secondary education has discretion on how to most effectively and efficiently communicate the above required information to individual schools and each school’s leaders.

                                 The department of elementary and secondary education shall implement a pilot program that expands the early warning indicator index system to include data collection regarding students currently enrolled in grade 3 through grade 12.  The purpose of the pilot program is to identify students as early as those enrolled in grade 3 who may be at risk of not graduating on time from high school, to better enable the school to provide the student with additional appropriate services, supervision, or guidance.  The pilot program shall begin within one year of passage of this act. The department of elementary and secondary education shall have  discretion in deciding how the pilot program shall be constructed and administered, including, but not limited to, how many school districts to include in the pilot program, which schools to include in the pilot program, and what additional indicators will be piloted, if any. After the pilot program has been in place for one academic school year, the department of elementary and secondary education shall analyze the program and publish a report which shall include, but not be limited to, a recommendation whether to expand the early warning indicator index system for provision of analysis to all public schools as early as grade 3. This report shall be submitted to the joint committee on education no later than 30 months after passage of this act.

                                 SECTION 3. Section 1C of chapter 71 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2008 Official Edition, is hereby amended by adding the following paragraph at the end thereof:-

                                 Each school district shall conduct, in cooperation with the local parent advisory council, at least one workshop annually within the school district for parents and teachers on effective strategies for involving parents in the education of their child. Each school district shall conduct a second workshop annually on parental involvement in the education of at-risk students.

                                 SECTION 4. The first sentence of the third paragraph of section 37H of chapter 71 of the General Laws, as most recently amended by section 4 of chapter 92 of the acts of 2010, is hereby amended by striking out the word “nine” and replacing it with the word “seven.”             

                                 SECTION 5. Chapter 71 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2008 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after section 37H ½, the following section:

                                 Section 37H ¾. Non-felony suspension and expulsion limitations.

                                 This section regulates the suspension and expulsion of students enrolled in a public school in the commonwealth, who are being punished by the school for a non-felonious act, including, but not limited to, truancy, poor attendance, class disruption, or breaking other published school rules.

                                 (1) Under this section, the principal or headmaster of a school in which the student is enrolled shall provide a written explanation of the reason for the suspension or expulsion to a student and the student’s parent or guardian if the student has been suspended or expelled from school for more than five consecutive days for a non-felonious act. The student shall receive written notification of the charges and the reasons for such suspension or expulsion prior to such suspension or expulsion taking effect.  The student also shall receive written notification of a right to appeal and the process for appealing such suspension or expulsion; provided, however, that such suspension or expulsion shall remain in effect prior to any appeal hearing conducted by the superintendent.

                                 The student shall have the right to appeal the suspension or expulsion to the superintendent.  The student shall notify the superintendent in writing of a request for an appeal no later than five calendar days following the effective date of the suspension or expulsion. The superintendent or the superintendent’s designee, shall hold a hearing with the student and the student’s parent or guardian within three calendar days of the student’s request for an appeal.  At the hearing, the student shall have the right to present oral and written testimony, and shall have the right to counsel. The superintendent shall

              render a decision on the appeal within five calendar days of the hearing. Such decision shall be the final decision of the city, town or regional school district with regard to the suspension or expulsion. 

                                 (2) Under this section, no student shall be suspended or expelled from school for a time period that exceeds 365 days, beginning the first day the student is removed from an assigned school building.

                                 (3) No student in grade 3 and below and no student who is assessed as reading at a grade 3 level and below shall be suspended or expelled from school for a time period of ten consecutive school days or more without access to alternative educational options.

                                 (4) Any teacher, principal, hearing officer or other person acting as a decision-maker at a student hearing, when deciding the punishment for the student, shall exercise discretion; consider ways to re-engage the student in the learning process; and avoid using expulsion as a punishment until other punishments have been employed. 

                                 (5) Any student who is 16 years of age or younger shall be offered alternative educational options by the school district if suspended or expelled for a time period of more than ten consecutive school days. Students exempt from attending school under section 1 of chapter 76 shall not be subject to this provision.

                                 SECTION 6.  Section 18 of chapter 76 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2008 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the word ”notice” in line 9, the following sentence:-

                                 Such notice shall include information listing alternative educational options, resources, and addresses, and informing the student and parent or guardian of the right to meet with the school committee or its designee to discuss the reasons for the student dropping out and alternative educational options.

                                 SECTION 7.  Said section 18 of said chapter 76 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by inserting after the first paragraph the following paragraphs:-

                                 The graduation coach as described in section 21 shall convene the student, parent or guardian, and a representative of the student’s school, which may include, but not be limited to, a general education teacher serving the student, a special education teacher serving the student, or a member of  the school’s administrative team, to develop an “individualized family engagement plan” with the goal of supporting, assisting and developing practical strategies for strong family involvement in the student’s academic life and in the student’s school community. Once developed, the “individualized family engagement plan” shall describe each of the aforementioned party’s responsibilities and shall be signed by the parties.

                                 When a student drops out of school, the district from which a student dropped out shall transfer an amount equal to the district’s per pupil spending for that student to any accredited educational program in which the student enrolls, as long as the district is receiving chapter 70 aid for that student’s enrollment. If a student transfers to an alternative educational program midyear, the district shall transfer funds on a prorated basis to the new program. If a student enrolls in a charter school, the provisions of the Education Reform Act of 1993 shall supersede this section.

                                 SECTION 8.  Said section 18 of said chapter 76 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by adding the following sentences at the end thereof:-

                                 The auditor of the commonwealth shall conduct an audit of cities and towns to determine compliance with the provisions of this section.  The audit shall be conducted within eighteen months of passage of this act.

                                 SECTION 9.  Chapter 76 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2008 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after section 20, the following section:

                                 Section 21. Massachusetts Graduation Coach Initiative.

                                 As used in this section, the following term shall have the following meaning:

                                 “Students-at-risk of dropping out of school” are any students deemed at-risk according to the early warning indicator index system used by the department of elementary and secondary education. For purposes of this act, “students at-risk of dropping out of school” may also be referred to as “at-risk students.”

                                 The purpose of the Massachusetts graduation coach initiative is to provide at-risk students with a caring adult who will encourage, mentor, and challenge students to academic success.  The Massachusetts graduation coach initiative shall match at-risk students with graduation coaches who will monitor the students’ attendance and provide advice and intervention services, or connection to intervention services, such as, but not limited to, peer tutoring, credit recovery session, and academic remediation.  Graduation coaches shall ensure successful transition of at-risk students from middle school to high school, connecting these students with the students’ new school.  The Massachusetts graduation coach initiative shall place coaches in every public middle school and high school, that for a high school, has a total annual dropout rate of 5% or more or an annual dropout rate of 5% or more in any of the gender or race/ethnicity sub-groups tracked by the department of elementary and secondary education; and that, for grades 7 and 8, has a total annual incidence of at-risk students of 10% or more in those grades or an annual incidence of at-risk students of 10% or more in those grades in any of the gender or race/ethnicity sub-groups tracked by the department of elementary and secondary education. The department of elementary and secondary education shall promulgate regulations as to an appropriate coach to student ratio, by which to guide placement of coaches in the respective schools.

                                 For hiring purposes, graduation coaches shall meet minimum state employment qualifications and hold at least a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Candidates for employment as a graduation coach also shall have some past experience working effectively with youth.  Graduation coaches’ responsibilities shall include, but not be limited to, the following: identifying at-risk students; implementing school wide support interventions; motivating students to focus on a graduation plan; negotiating extra help for at-risk students; providing academic advice and student support; developing effective transition programs to aid at-risk students moving between schools; connecting parents of at-risk students with appropriate school and community resources; connecting at-risk students with school and community resources; and encouraging parent and community involvement.

                                 The Massachusetts graduation coach initiative shall be administered by the department of elementary and secondary education in consultation with hosting school districts and school administrators. Each school district or school districts, if the school districts wish to partner with other neighboring school districts, shall provide the graduation coach with professional development opportunities and administrative and technical support in concert with existing district professional development, administrative, and technical support services for district staff.  The department of elementary and secondary education shall coordinate and lead annual regional meetings to allow graduation coaches to network and share best practices, strategies, and problem solving methods.

                                 The department of elementary and secondary education shall submit an annual report to the joint committee on education, evaluating the impact of the Massachusetts graduation coach initiative on statewide and local dropout rates, no later than six months after the end of each academic year in which the program was administered.

                                 SECTION 10. Section 52D of chapter 149 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2008 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out lines 17 through 19.

                                 SECTION 11. Chapter 149 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2008 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after section 52D the following section:-

                                 Section 52E.  Family leave for academic activities. 

                                 (a) As used in this section, the following terms shall have the following meanings, notwithstanding any contrary provision in section 1 of this chapter:

                                 “Academic activity,” any school meeting, conference, or other activity directly related to the educational advancement of a child of an employee, including, but not limited to, a parent-teacher conference; an interview for a new school; a meeting related to special education services, as defined in chapter 71B; or a meeting related to dropout prevention, attendance, truancy, or disciplinary issues.  

                                 “Academic year,” the period allotted by a school for the completion of one grade

              level of study.

                                 “Child,” a biological, adopted, or foster child, stepchild, legal ward, or child of a parent standing in loco parentis who attends a school.

                                 “District” or “School district,” the school department of a city or town, or a regional school district.

                                 “Employee,” any person who performs services or previously performed services for an employer for wages, remuneration, or other compensation. An independent contractor is not considered an “employee” for purposes of this act.

                                 “Employer,” any individual, corporation, partnership or other entity, including any agent thereof, who engages the services of an employee or employees for wages, remuneration, or other compensation. 

                                 “Federal act,” sections 101 to 105, inclusive, of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C. sections 2611 to 2615, inclusive, as it may be amended.

                                 “School,” a public or private elementary or secondary school; a Head Start program assisted under the Head Start Act, 42 U.S.C. section 9831 et seq.; and a children’s child care facility licensed under chapter 15D.

                                 (b) In addition to any leave available under the federal act, an employee shall be entitled to a total of 24 hours of paid leave during any academic year to attend academic activities; provided that subject to an employer’s approval, an employee who has exhausted the time allowed may begin to use the employee’s next immediate academic year’s allotted 24 hours of leave; or use hours of leave transferred to the employee in need of more hours by another employee or employees.

                                 (c)  An employer may expand the definition of “academic activity” to include other school-related events, such as school functions and parent association meetings.

                                 (d) (1) If the necessity for leave under this section is foreseeable, the employee shall provide the employer with not less than five days’ notice before the date the leave is to begin. If the necessity for leave is not foreseeable, the employee shall provide such notice as is practicable.

                                 (2) An employer may require that a request for leave under this section be supported by a certification issued at such time and in such manner as the attorney general may by regulation require. 

                                 (e) An employee shall make a reasonable attempt to schedule leave for academic activities outside of regular work hours.  When scheduling academic activities for which leave may be taken, a school or school district shall, if at all possible, accommodate the schedule of an employee with a child in the school or school district.

                                 (f) Notwithstanding subsection (b) of this section, an employer may limit the ability of an

              employee to take leave under this section in the following situations:

                                 (1) in cases of emergency or other situations that may endanger a person’s health or safety if the employee were to take leave at the provided time of the academic activity; or

                                 (2) if the employer employs ten or fewer employees working at one location at a given time.  In this instance, the employer may limit the number of employees who may take leave for academic activities on a given day. 

                                 (g) (1) It shall be unlawful for an employer to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of, or the attempt to exercise, the rights provided under this section or to withhold benefits provided in this section.

                                 (2) It shall be unlawful for an employer to discharge or discriminate against an employee for acting within the employee’s rights to take leave under this section.

                                 (3) It shall be unlawful for an employer to discharge or discriminate against an employee because the employee has filed a charge, or has instituted or caused to be instituted a proceeding, under or related to this section; has given or is about to give information in connection with an inquiry or proceeding relating to a right provided under this section; or has testified or is about to testify in an inquiry or proceeding relating to a right provided under this section. 

                                 (h) The attorney general shall enforce this section, and may obtain injunctive or declaratory relief for this purpose. An employer who violates any provision of this section shall be subject to a fine of not less than $1,000 or more than $5,000 for each violation. Jurisdiction over violations of this section shall be in any court of competent jurisdiction.

                                 SECTION 12. Section 9 shall apply commencing the academic school year beginning 2012.

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