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New Complaints Allege Texas Schools Still Using Truancy Courts to Push Out Students With Disabilities

The National Center for Youth Law (NCYL), Disability Rights Texas, and Texas Appleseed have filed complaints with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) alleging that the El Paso and Mesquite Independent School Districts continue to refer students to court for truancy without first providing the required prevention and intervention services mandated under HB 2398.

HB 2398 passed by the Texas Legislature last year, decriminalized truancy making it a civil rather than criminal matter, eliminated fines against students for truancy, expunged the records of all the previous truancy cases that were tried in adult criminal court, and prioritized school-based prevention and intervention for students who are truant. Data from the 2015-2016 school year shows that since the adoption of HB 2398, truancy cases statewide in Texas decreased by approximately 90%, meaning that approximately 60,000 fewer cases were filed.

HB 2398 passed in the wake of a series of complaints filed by NCYL, Disability Rights Texas and Texas Appleseed challenging Texas’ truancy courts. NCYL and its partners have called on TEA to provide stronger guidance to ensure districts comply with the state’s revised truancy laws. The request came in public comments submitted in response to new rules issued by TEA, as required under HB 2398.

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