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Tabitha's Law Requires Parents to Report Absences

Law also mandates school officials to contact parents if a student is absent without prior notification.

Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation into law on Friday requiring parents to notify officials when their child will be absent from school.

The law also stipulates that school officials must contact a parent if a student is absent without prior notification to the school.

“Community leaders and parents will now be required to take immediate, personal responsibility for the children they must care for and protect,” state Senator Kevin O’Toole, who initiated the new law, said in a press release. “Just a few seconds of accountability can be enough to save lives and solve abductions.”

The bill, known as Tabitha’s Law, is named for a Tennessee teenager, Tabitha Tudor, who has been missing since 2003. Tudor's parents were not aware she did not attend school on the day she went missing. The school allegedly did not contact her parents to tell them she was absent. Tudor's parents said they did not know she was missing until almost 5 p.m. that day. 

O'Toole said that the first few hours after a child abduction are critical in the investigation of such incidents.

State 40th District Assemblyman Scott Rumana is the primary sponsor of the bill Christie signed.

“Unanticipated absences can be a sign of a bigger problem, which can be solved by being proactive,” Rumana said in a statement. “Responding quickly to an unexaplained absence can avert a tragedy and the heartache that families and communities feel when they hear a story like [Tudor’s].”

stewart resmer December 11, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Now, about NJ Medical Proxy Deficiencies Mr Rumana? http://www.free-press-release.com/news-new-jersey-medical-proxy-directive-deficiencies-1324515998.html
M OKeef December 11, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Wasn't this already the law in NJ?
Catherine with a K December 12, 2012 at 02:40 AM
I don't know if it is law but it is certainly policy in every NJ school I know of. But so what? Nobody will ever vote against a law named after a dead little girl. (Maybe someone should propose a balanced budget amendment and call it Molly's Law, or something)
Suzanne December 12, 2012 at 05:26 AM
I thought it's been the law since Etan Patz's disappearance.
Serukrat December 12, 2012 at 09:14 AM
Your legal articles are always so informative and useful! I wish to publish your new articles on Attorney Online, especially in rubric of business law articles. There is also an attorney directory where you can submit contacts of all good attorneys you know. They can post to Attorney Blog or legal news regarding their practice.
Michael December 12, 2012 at 12:08 PM
Is there a portion of the law that requires school officials and teachers to notify parents if the students aren't in school within "a few seconds" of the start of a class? In Ridgewood, we didn't get calls to report class absences or tardies until 5pm. Using Senator O'Toole's logic, my kids could be in North Carolina or Michigan by then.
Justice December 12, 2012 at 12:19 PM
Serukrat, What legal articles? Are you spamming?
IC December 12, 2012 at 12:40 PM
If it wasn't law already, then it certainly is school policy in NJ. It is written in all the online school policies in our district.
Brian December 12, 2012 at 01:23 PM
This is a law with good intentions but there are several problems with these laws and when you escalate it past a local school policy and make it a state reported issue you force the school to overreact. 1) What is the punishment if I don't call my kid in sick? Can I get fined? Go to jail? Will they send DYFS or a cop to my door to find out if I knew my child was home? 2) What if your kid is up all night sick and you and he/she are sleeping in the morning? Do I have to wake up to call the school or risk jail? What if a family member is in an accident and the kids are at the hospital with you, can you be fined for not calling the school to report the absence? What about if you are out of the country on a vacation and miss a flight back? 3) If I didn't call, but knew my kid was home sick, I have an incentive to have my kid lie and say I didn't know and he/she just stayed home. The kid can only get suspended or detention. I could face fines or jail time. 4) Who is going to pay for the administrative costs at the school and for the Justice system to enforce this law? I really don't mind the local school calling if the student isn't in school and of course it should be standard operating procedure for parents to call the school if your kid wont be there. It is courteous to teachers for one thing. But to make it a state law is a waste of resources and creates an unreasonable burden for parents.
Maxim Sapozhnikov December 12, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Brian, most of those posting here send children to public schools that actually have policies. There are NJ schools where policies are limited to "no loaded firearms", "no knife fights in the class", and "bring your own syringe"; the law will be beneficial to their students' safety.
YGBFKM December 12, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Great effort here, Scott..............................DON'T FORGET ABOUT RIVER BASIN FLOODING AND CLEANING OUT THE RIVERS!!!
stewart resmer December 12, 2012 at 02:57 PM
dont forget about your campaign promise to get the route 80 west on ramp from route 23?
concernedcitizen December 12, 2012 at 03:49 PM
The law only pertains to students at public schools, details at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2010/Bills/S3500/3177_I1.PDF Our schools already have the policy. But I guess this means that if they don't follow it, there's now a law that would help the civil suit against the school & taxpayers have more teeth, since the school also broke a State law. The law doesn't seem to indicate what the penalties are for parents that don't call in. Since it would be a 'law' now, perhaps this means that the police could now be dispatched to investigate the missing child, and then since a law is being broken, such as the parent asleep with the sick child that someone else mentioned, the parent could get a ticket. Maybe the law should have also require the schools to have a night-time number to indicate that the child would be out sick. How would the school even know it wasn't the child making these calls? Do the police really want to be turned into truant officers? Have the Chiefs of Police been asked to weigh in on this legislation when they're asked to investigate every absence or late arrival? Is the next step to provide all students with tracking devices as is generating lawsuits in Texas right now? This legislation requires specific actions by parents and public schools, but how this will be implemented across the state and in terms of penalties and enforcement should be very interesting.
Candid December 12, 2012 at 06:01 PM
I'm happy to learn that NJ have had nothing more important to legislate. Perhaps we should call our Representatives and Senators to introduce similar law in US Congress.
stewart resmer December 12, 2012 at 06:14 PM
I wonder how the schools will be able to afford to impliment this law what with the governor being so hostile towards teachers administrators and their budgets?
Jesi December 12, 2012 at 07:16 PM
drama queen
Ojo Rojo December 12, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Oh I don't know. It isn't as if schools haven't found a way to use computers to automatically make phone calls when students are absent from class. Oh wait, they have done that. In fact, the technology only came out 2 decades ago!
EILEEN December 12, 2012 at 08:16 PM
YOU would think this law would have been in place long ago......
lanie December 12, 2012 at 08:36 PM
I went to catholic school over 40 years ago and if I wasn't in school when attendance was called, they were on the phone with my mother within minutes and it was usually that she forgot to call me out sick that day. They still made sure to check up on it to be certain
Ojo Rojo December 12, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Does it really take a law for a school system to use a technology like an automated phone system to inform parents that their kids missed class? I know for a fact decades ago it was policy at every school I ever attended that calls were made to home and work if a kid missed class AND the schools also required a note explaining or excusing the absence when we got back to school the next day and failure to provide the note meant automatic detention. But it didn't require a law to get the schools to pass this common sense policy.
XJS December 12, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Amazingly, my school district was doing this in the 1980's. My mother's was doing it in the 1950's.
Liberty December 13, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Good one! If they were fined, there would be enough money to pay off the debt!
Liberty December 13, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Yep, we were doing this in the '50s. Had to take in a note explaining the absence, too. There were these people called truant officers also. This is not a new concept. It's common sense, why does it have to be a law and how will it be enforced and paid for?
Teena Roth December 14, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Another fund raiser! Just what we need. It's redundant. I thought all parents were already notified if kids didn't show up. If a student was going to be absent or is absent that day, then the parent has the responsibility to let the school know. We don't need another law on the books. There are probably 90 percent too many already, but they do make money.
Chris December 14, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Yeah, I thought every school did this. Sad that the law has to teach schools about common sense and accountability.
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