OF FREE SCHOOLS.
AN ACT to Compel the Attendance of Children at the Public Schools of the State.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Delaware in General Assembly met:
Section I. That following the approval of this Act every parent, guardian or other person in this State having control of a child or children between the ages of seven and fourteen years shall be required to send such child or children to a day school, in which the common English branches are taught; and such child or children shall attend such school continuously for at least five months each year during the time in which the public school in their respective districts shall be in session, beginning not less than one month after the opening of said school, unless such child or children shall be excused from attendance by a majority of the Commissioners of the School District in which the parent, guardian or other person resides, upon the presentation to said Commissioners of satisfactory evidence showing such child or children are prevented from attendance upon school or application to study by mental, physical or other urgent reasons, and such excuse must be countersigned by the County Superintendent of the County in which such District is located; but the urgent reasons shall be strictly construed and shall not permit of irregular attendance.
Provided, that each school district shall have power each year at its regular annual meeting to reduce the period of compulsory attendance to not less than three months, in which case the school meeting must at that date fix a time for compulsory attendance to begin, but such date shall not be later than January 2nd, of each school year. Provided that in case there be no public school in session within two miles by the nearest traveled road of any person within the school district, he or she shall not be liable to the provisions of this Act, unless a free conveyance is provided.
Provided, that this Act shall not apply to any child that has been or is being otherwise instructed in English in the common branches of learning for a like period of time in any private school, or by any legally qualified governess or private teacher in a family, or by any other means which shall be approved by the County Superintendent of the proper county.
Provided further, that any principal or teacher of any private school or educational institution shall report non-attendance as provided in Section 5 of this Act. And provided also that the certificate of any principal or teacher of a private school or of any institution for the education of children in which the common English branches are taught, setting forth that the work of said school is in compliance with the provisions of this Act, shall be sufficient and satisfactory evidence thereof, and the principal or teacher of said school or institution shall have the power to excuse any child or children for non-attendance during temporary periods in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
Section 2. That for every neglect of duty imposed by the first section of this Act, the principal or teacher or person in parental relation, offending, shalt be guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall, upon conviction thereof before a justice of the peace, magistrate or alderman, forfeit a fine not exceeding two dollars on first conviction, and a fine not exceeding five dollars for each subsequent conviction, and in default of payment of said fine, the defendant may be committed to the county prison for a period not exceeding two days for the first conviction, and for a period not exceeding five days for each subsequent conviction. Provided, upon conviction the defendant or defendants may appeal to the Court of General Sessions of the proper county within fifteen days, upon entering into recognizance with one surety for the amount of fines and costs. Provided, however, that before such action shall be brought for any of the aforesaid penalties, the parent, guardian or other person liable therefor, shall be notified in writing by the County Superintendent of Schools, or such person as he shall designate, of such liability, and shall have opportunity, by compliance with tile requirements of this Act within three school clays then and thereafter to avoid the imposition of such penalty. The mailing of such notice to the usual address of offending party shall be deemed sufficient under this Act. But after such notice has been given, if the same child is absent from school three clays or their equivalent in time during the remaining period of compulsory attendance, without excuse as provided by Section 1 of this Act, the parent, guardian or person in parental relation, shall be liable to prosecution under this Act without further notice.
The fines provided for by this Act, shall, when collected, be paid over by the officers collecting the same, to the treasurer or clerk of the school committee or board of the respective districts for the use of the school district in which such person convicted resides, to be applied and accounted for by such treasurer or clerk in the same way as other moneys raised for school purposes; such fines shall be collected by a process of law similar to the collection of other fines.
Section 3. Boards of education and school committees may, in all districts, employ one or more persons to be known as "attendance officers" whose duty shall be, in addition to the duties provided elsewhere in this Act, to look after, apprehend and arrest without warrant, truants and others who fail to attend school in accordance with the provisions of this Act. When an attendance officer arrests or apprehends any truant or other person, as herein set forth, he shall have power immediately to place him or her in the school in which he or she is or should be enrolled, or at the expense of the parent, guardian or person in parental relation, in such private school as provided by Section 1 of this Act, as the parent, guardian or person in parental relation may select. And in case the parent, guardian or person in parental relation shall refuse or neglect immediately to select such school, the school commissioners or secretary for school commissioners shall have full power to designate the school in which the child shall be placed.
The persons serving as such attendance officers, shall be entitled to such compensation as shall be fixed by the Boards appointing them, and such compensation may be paid out of the school funds. But the sums paid for such services must be approved by the Superintendent of Schools of the County. In case no truant officer be appointed, the secretary or clerk of the local school commissioners shall serve as such officer.
Commissioners of any school district or districts or of two or more districts jointly, may establish special schools for children who are habitual truants or who are insubordinate or disorderly during their attendance upon instruction in the public schools, and may provide for the proper care, maintenance and instruction of such children in such schools for such period of time as the Board may prescribe. But before the pupil shall be placed in such special school, the parent, guardian or person in parental relation shall have opportunity to be heard.
All truancy and incorrigibility shall be deemed disorderly conduct, and in case no special school, as herein prescribed has been established, the County Superintendent of Schools, or secretary or attendance officer, as the County Superintendent shall designate, shall proceed against such truant or incorrigible pupil as a disorderly person before a justice of the peace, magistrate or alderman, and upon conviction, the pupil may be sentenced for a definite time to the Ferris Reform School. The State Treasurer shall pay to the authorities of the said school, the sum of forty cents per day, from money not otherwise appropriated, for each day such pupil is confined in said institution.
Section 4. That it shall be the duty of the assessors when making each assessment of property for taxation for school purposes, when not notified and directed to the contrary by the school commissioners, to make in a substantial book, provided by the County Superintendent of Schools at the expense of the State for that purpose, a careful and correct list of all children between the ages of seven and fourteen years within his district, giving the full name, date of birth, age, sex, race, estimated distance from school-house by nearest traveled road, name and address of parent, guardian or person in parental relation; which enumeration, after approval by the secretary of the said school district, shall be sent by the assessor to the County Superintendent of Schools of the County in which the enumeration is made. And the receipt of the County Superintendent of Schools shall entitle the aforementioned assessor, to a fee of one dollar for each one hundred names or fraction thereof, of children on such list; said sum to be paid from the school funds of the district in which such enumeration shall have been made.
It shall be the duty of the said County Superintendent of Schools to forward to the principal teacher of the proper school district prior to September 15th in each year, a list of all children in his or her district who are subject to the provisions of this Act.
Provided further, that the attendance officer, if there be any, or the County Superintendent of Schools or the Secretary or clerk of the school commissioners, or principal teacher, shall have authority to make any additions or corrections to the assessor's list aforesaid for the purpose of carrying into effect the provisions of this Act.
Section 5. That it shall be the duty of each teacher of the school district at the close of each school month, to report to the attendance officer, and to the County Superintendent of Schools, the names of all children in the district who have been absent without lawful excuse; when, if it shall appear that any parent, guardian or other person having control of any child or children shall have failed to comply with the provisions of this Act, after notification in writing as provided in Section 2, the County Superintendent, or such attendance officer as he shall direct, shall proceed in the name of the State under authority of the commissioners of the local district affected, against the offending party or parties in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
Provided further, that if sufficient cause be shown for a failure to comply with the provisions of this Act, or if the costs of prosecution cannot be collected from the defendant in case of his or her conviction, said costs shall be paid out of the school funds, upon a proper voucher approved by the commissioners of said district.
Section 6. That the assessor of school taxes, principal, teacher, secretary or attendance officer if there be one, of any Board of Commissioners, who willfully neglects or refuses to comply with the provisions of this Act shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof before an alderman, magistrate or justice of the peace, shall forfeit or pay a fine not exceeding twenty-five dollars, subject to the right of appeal to the Court of General Sessions of the proper county within fifteen days upon entering into recognizance with one surety for the amount of fines and costs.
Section 7. That the State Treasurer of Delaware shall withhold one-fourth the State dividend from any school district or districts which neglects or refuses to enforce the provisions of this Act in a manner satisfactory to the County Superintendent of Schools of the county in which such school shall be located.
Section 8. That the necessary expenses incurred by State officials in carrying out and enforcing the provisions of this Act shall, upon approval by the State Board of Education, be paid by the State Treasurer.
Section 9. That in enforcing the provisions of this Act within the limits of the school district of the City of Wilmington, the powers and duties herein conferred upon the County Superintendents of Schools are hereby conferred upon the Superintendent of Schools of the City of Wilmington.
Approved March 15, A. D. 1907.