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Posted at 03:50 PM ET, 08/19/2008

Absent? Charter Officials Will Now Know Sooner, Rather Than Later

The tragic case of Banita Jacks and her four daughters has faded from the spotlight.

But in January when Jacks was discovered at home with the badly decomposing bodies of her children ---she has been charged with their deaths--- city officials couldn't explain why the sisters had been absent for months from their charter schools without any intervention or follow-up. The case was shocking not only for the horrific deaths, but also for the apparent lapses in communication and cooperation across city agencies and public and charter schools.

The D.C. Public Charter School Board passed a stricter attendance and truancy policy Monday to try to address such information gaps. Schools are now required to report attendance and truancy statistics on a quarterly basis, and they must meet new minimum thresholds: rates of 85 percent or higher for attendance, and 20 percent or lower for truancy. Schools that fall below these rates could find themselves explaining in a public meeting what the problems are and facing consequences such as probation or something more serious.

Before this week, the board did not have a truancy and attendance policy -- a school's track record on such issues weighed most heavily during the in-depth review held every five years from its date of opening.

Schools were notified about the change in the charter board's weekly "Tuesday Bulletin," and will get an official letter soon, said board spokeswoman Nona Richardson. The change is right on time for the dozens of charter schools that will resume classes Monday.

Theola Labbe Debose

By Theola Labbé-DeBose  |  03:50 PM ET, 08/19/2008

Categories:  Education, Education

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