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Palmerton district looks at policy updates

Three policy updates will be up for first reading approval in Palmerton Area School District later this month.

Thomas McLaughlin, Palmerton’s human resources director, briefed the board and the public on the updates during the district’s monthly workshop Tuesday night.

According to McLaughlin, the policy dealing with student attendance will be among the updates.

“It really looks at how truancy and habitual truancy are defined and the steps that the district takes,” McLaughlin said.

A student is considered truant when they reach three or more total unexcused absences.

Following an absence, a student has three days to bring in a note to make the missed day lawful.

After six days of unexcused absences, a student is considered habitually truant.

“After the third unexcused absence, the district will schedule a student attendance improvement conference and invite the parents and the student,” McLaughlin said. “The student and the parent are not required to come, but the district must go forward with the conference anyway and document what was discussed and what plans are in place. That gives us the ability to go the legal route later on.”

The district may file a citation against only the parents for habitual truancy if the student is under 15 years old. If the student is 15 years old or older, the district can file a citation against both the student and the parent.

“Sometimes we have to get parents before the magistrate to get them to realize I have to send the student to school,” Superintendent Scot Engler said. “It’s not our intent to burden a family with large fines, however, and we will work with them. Our end goal is to get the student in school.”

Another policy up for first reading will be an update on how the district handles homeless students.

To comply with federal law, McLaughlin said, any district has to immediately enroll a student who shows up and says they are homeless.

“It then falls on the district to follow up and try to get past records such as immunization reports,” he said.

Each district has a homeless student liaison, and in Palmerton that is Suzanne Rentschler, director of special education.

“We also provided professional development regarding homeless students to our staff during our initial in-service days,” McLaughlin said.

The final policy deals with the employee assistance program. Palmerton uses the Preferred EAP in Allentown and the program covers all district employees.

“EAP assists employees who are having difficulties,” McLaughlin said. “They can self-refer or district administration can refer an employee if there are work performance concerns. The records are confidential and none of the information regarding employment issues goes on the individual’s record.”

After the first reading is approved for each policy, they will be posted on the district’s website.