Why are many of our juvenile delinquents being offered less educational access than other students? Compulsory school attendance is a cornerstone of school policy and Indiana law, and sets a minimum days and hours of educational instruction for a child. Yet, many of our children are only being offered three (3) hours of “instructional time” per day both in the schools and in the detention centers. “Instructional time” is defined as time during which students are participating in: (1) an approved course; (2) a curriculum; or (3) an educationally related activity; under the direction of a teacher… IC 20-23-2-1. “Instruction,” may be nothing more than children put in front of a computer to work independently on computerized educational programs, such as Plato, despite a host of learning challenges.
For children in grades 7 through 12, a student instructional day consists of at least six (6) hours of instructional time. IC 20-30-2-2(a). There is no statutory exception for when a child is in a detention center. There is no statutory exception for any children in grades 7 through 10.
An exception exists for older children participating in a school flex program, for whom the instructional day consists of a minimum of three (3) hours of instructional time. IC 20-30-2-2(b); IC 20-30-2-2.2(c). Curiously, the students who are in the most danger of dropping out of school or never graduating are those who are eligible for the school flex instructional program. Pursuant to IC 20-30-2-2.2, to be eligible, a student must be in grade 11 or 12 who has:
- Failed the ISTEP+ graduation exam at least twice;
- Been determined to be chronically absent, by missing ten percent (10%) or more of a school year for any reason;
- Been determined to be a habitual truant, as identified under IC 20-33-2-11;
- Been significantly behind in credits for graduation, as identified by an individual’s school principal;
- Previously undergone at least a second suspension form school for the school year under IC 20-33-8-14 or IC 20-33-8-15;
- Previously undergone an expulsion from school under IC 20-33-8-14, IC 20-33-8-15, or IC 20-33-8-16;
- Been determined by the individual’s principal and the individual’s parent or guardian to benefit by participating in the school flex program.
Pursuant to IC 20-30-2-2.2(b), an eligible student who participates in the school flex program must:
- Attend school for at least three (3) hours of instructional time per school day;
- Pursue timely graduation;
- Provide evidence of college or technical career education enrollment and attendance or proof of employment and labor that is aligned with the student’s career academic sequence under rules established by the Indiana bureau of child labor;
- Not be suspended or expelled while participating in a school flex program.
- Pursue course and credit requirements for a general diploma; and
- Maintain a ninety-five (95%) attendance rate.
If these are the rules, then why are younger children being put in special programs with only three hours of instructional time, according to anecdotal information revealed by the parents during JD cases, often in court? Why do some (but not all) detention centers offer less than six (6) hours of instructional time, according to information gathered by the Indiana Department of Correction? For those who truly qualify for the school flex program, who is monitoring enrollment in technical schools or employment, as many children with limited educational access are doing neither?
We must do better. We must educate ALL of our children as outlined by the law.