Puerto Rico School Discipline Laws & Regulations: Chronic Absenteeism and Truancy

Discipline Compendium

Puerto Rico School Discipline Laws & Regulations: Chronic Absenteeism and Truancy

Category: Discipline Addressing Specific Code of Conduct Violations
Subcategory: Chronic Absenteeism and Truancy
State: Puerto Rico

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3 L.P.R.A. § 9801c. Compulsory school attendance.

(a) School attendance shall be compulsory for students between the ages of five (5) and (18), except for: students participating in an elementary or secondary alternative education program or its equivalent; students enrolled in a high school equivalency program for adults or other programs that prepare students to be readmitted to a regular school; or students who have taken the GED test.

(b) Public school students are hereby prohibited from leaving the school grounds during school hours or during any recess. The School Principal and the student's teacher shall be jointly accountable for unexcused absences of said nature and their evaluations shall state so if they fail to prove that clear and convincing efforts were taken to prevent such absences. It is hereby provided that the Secretary shall be required to prescribe by regulations to such effect, the procedure to authorize students to leave the school grounds during school hours. Such regulations shall contain, at least, one provision regarding the express authorization of a parent, guardian, or custodian.

(c) Any student's parent, guardian, or custodian who encourages, entices, or allows such student to be absent from school for a period equal to or greater than three (3) consecutive days without just cause, or who fails to meet his responsibility of causing the child to attend school, and after receiving a notice of non-compliance, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) or a minimum period of one hundred (100) hours of community service at the institution the student for whom he is responsible attends, or both penalties at the discretion of the court. Said person shall also be guilty of a civil infraction that may entail the cancellation of benefits under the Nutrition Assistance Program, the Public Housing Program, and the Affordable Housing Program. Each school shall develop a strategic plan to prevent student's excessive absences from the classroom.

(d) All students shall be enrolled in an educational program until they finish high school or its equivalent. Every student's parent, guardian, or custodian shall be responsible for the student's compulsory school attendance, as provided in this section.

(e) The Secretary, in conjunction with Regional Superintendents and school principals, shall establish the methods or procedures to be used by Regional Offices of Education to implement the provisions regarding student's compulsory school attendance, through regulations that shall include, among others, the following:

(1) The School Principal's responsibility for the enforcement of compulsory school attendance.

(2) A daily attendance record of the school's students. Schools shall use the electronic media established by the Department to record students' class attendance.

(3) An attendance notification system for parents. Said notifications shall be sent on a monthly basis, and in the case of pattern absences, parents shall be notified weekly.

(4) The steps to be taken by the school to address student attendance problems.

(5) Incentives to every student's parent, guardian, or custodian discharging his responsibility regarding the student's compulsory school attendance.

(f) At the end of each semester, the Secretary shall submit a "Report on School Dropout in Puerto Rico". The information therein shall be presented in a manner that is clear and easy to understand for the general public. Said report shall be submitted to the Governor, the Legislative Assembly through the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Office of the Secretary of the Senate, and the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics. In addition, the report shall be available on the Department's website. The same shall include, but shall not be limited to, the total dropout rates by grade level for every education region and for each school; the High School Equivalency Test pass rate; data on transfers, expulsions, suspensions, and absenteeism; and any other pertinent information in connection with the academic progress of students. Furthermore, the Secretary shall make available on the Department's website every month, each school's attendance report, which shall be reported in accordance with regulations.

(g) The Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics is hereby designated as the authorized representative of the Department for the purpose of sharing students' information with the Institute, safeguarding the confidentiality rights of students pursuant to § 9801d of this title.

18 L.P.R.A. § 3802. General rights of the student.

All persons have the right to education. The education to be provided by the State shall be free for all students of the Public Education System. Elementary and secondary education shall be compulsory. All students shall be guaranteed equal protection of the laws and rights granted by the U.S. Constitution, federal laws, the Constitution of Puerto Rico, and other applicable laws, regulations, and ordinances. Without it being construed as a limitation, students shall have the following rights:

(1) To receive an education directed to the full development of their personality, intellectual capacities, as well as strengthening human beings and their fundamental freedoms.

(2) Special education programs shall promote the optimum development of the personality, as well as the physical, mental, and cognitive abilities of special needs students by providing them with an education and the tools for their integration into society.

(3) Parents shall have the right and the obligation to be informed of their children's academic performance as well as the responsibility to ensure their children's compulsory school attendance.

(4) Students shall have the right to know the evaluation process criteria to which they shall be subjected when their school work is graded and evaluated; and to be notified of their academic progress.

(5) Students shall have the right to a bilingual education that teaches them to communicate fluently in English and Spanish, at the very least, which are the two official languages of Puerto Rico.

The parents of students who are unemancipated minors or, in default thereof, their guardian or custodian, may inform the Department of Education of their desire to provide the student with instruction in English. To such effects, they may request admission to any of the specialized schools for said purpose subject to seat availability and following the rules and regulations of the Department.

(6) Freedom of Expression.- Every student shall have the right to express his opinions as well as to orderly and respectfully disagree with the opinions of his teachers and other school personnel. School authorities shall identify and provide spaces or areas to be used by students to place notifications or comments regarding any school issue, subject to the rules established in the Department of Education's General Student Regulations in effect. Under no circumstances shall the order established in the classrooms and on school grounds be altered.

(a) No public school, on its own or through employees or third parties, shall punish, retaliate, or impose disciplinary or discriminatory measures against any student who chooses to participate in military, paramilitary, or quasi-military activities or courses approved by the state or federal government or educational entities.

(7) Freedom of Religion.- The education provided in the schools of the State shall be free and nonsectarian.

(8) Equal Protection of the Laws.- Every student shall have the right to equal protection of the laws.

(9) Student education records and conduct in school: privacy, access, and disclosure.- Education records and other related documents as well as the performance, conduct, attendance, health, interaction with other members of the school community, personal appearance, personal care, and the attention of parents or guardians, or any other fact or circumstance involving the student within the school grounds shall be confidential. The records and related documents shall be kept in the custody of the School Principal.

No official of the Department of Education shall be authorized to disclose, by any means, the information that has been determined to be confidential by virtue of this chapter, unless the father or mother with parental rights or the legal guardian has issued an express and written consent. The student, father, mother with parental rights, or custodians and guardians shall have the right to request a copy of the education record. Access to these records shall be subject to the pertinent laws on the protection of confidential documents; persons not listed in this subsection shall be denied access to the student's education records, unless there is a court order to such effect.

The prohibition to disclose confidential information does not include information shared by officials of the Department of Education, the Department of the Family, and the Department of Justice, or any other government entity in the course and performance of their duties, or any information requested by a court order. Moreover, the disclosure of information to acknowledge the academic achievements of the student is hereby exempt from this limitation.

(10) Right to a free and safe education.-

(a) Education shall be free and accessible in the primary and secondary school levels to every public school student between the ages of five (5) and twenty-one (21).

(b) Students shall have the right to enjoy a safe school environment; free from the illegal use and trafficking of drugs and weapons; and free from any type of attack to their physical, mental, or emotional integrity.

(c) Students shall have the right to an education free from discrimination, abuse, and neglect.

(d) The right to receive equal opportunities to enroll in the public education system shall be recognized and guaranteed to any student who lives in Puerto Rico, regardless of race, color, sex, age, religion, birth, origin or ethnic background or nationality, political ideology, physical or mental disability, whether present or future, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation and gender identity, and immigration status. Public schools may not deny or reject students from enrolling in school on account of immigration status or failure to provide proof of lawful presence in Puerto Rico. No student or his family members shall be inquired about the immigration status of a student, his parents, or custodians.

(11) Curriculum.- Public schools shall implement a curriculum that fully develops the intellectual, imaginative, and emotional capabilities of students. Public schools shall also develop student's abilities pertaining to the sound coexistence of human beings as indispensable members of society. Said curriculum shall promote student's analytical skills and thought, disregarding the tradition of memorizing and reciting unnecessary information. Moreover, schools shall promote the development of values and dignity in human beings.

(12) Special education and reasonable accommodation.- Every student who has a physical or mental disability or has special needs shall have the right to receive services as are necessary according to their condition, and to be guaranteed reasonable accommodation consistent with their needs, as established in §§ 1351 et seq. of this title, known as the "Integral Educational Services for Persons with Disabilities Act", and the agreement of the class action Rosa Vélez v. Departmento de Educación, KPE1980-1738. If a student has a disability or a medical condition said student shall have the right to have private information remain confidential, pursuant to federal and state laws in respect thereof.

(13) Disciplinary actions.- The student shall have the right of due process in any disciplinary procedure. Disciplinary actions shall be carried out in accordance with the provisions of the Department of Education's General Student Regulations in effect. As part of the due process of law, students shall be granted the following rights:

(a) To be notified of the infraction and the sanction to be imposed. The foregoing shall be notified to the parents, guardian, or custodian of the student, and in the case of students of legal age, they shall be directly notified.

(b) To be given the opportunity to be heard before any sanction is imposed.

(c) To be judged by an impartial and competent person.

(d) To have knowledge of the student regulations, which shall be a public and accessible document to all students.

(14) Every student shall have the right to receive an education of excellence.

(15) Every student shall have the right to be considered an active learner and capable of social interaction within his social environment.

(16) Every student shall have the right to be heard and to have his opinions fully respected; he shall also have the obligation to hear and respect the opinion of others.

18 L.P.R.A. § 3803. Duties and responsibilities of students, parents, guardians, and school authorities.

(1) Observe the laws, regulations, circular letters, rules, instructions, and directives issued by academic authorities.

(2) Be punctual and attend school regularly as well as behave appropriately during school hours, recess, and other school activities, whether they are held inside or outside the school.

(3) Preserve, take care of, protect, and avoid damaging public property, equipment, books, or school supplies.

(4) To refrain from interrupting class.

(5) To refrain from coercing other students into participating in a particular mode of expression, or from violating the right of other students to dissent from their points of view.

(6) Parents or guardians shall be responsible for the punctuality and regular school attendance of their unemancipated minors, and for notifying school authorities of the existence of any circumstance that warrants their absence.

(7) Parents or guardians shall be responsible for repairing any damages caused by their unemancipated minors to public property, equipment, or school supplies. In the case of a student who is of legal age or emancipated, he shall personally assume responsibility for the damages caused.

(8) Parents or guardians of a minor shall be responsible for updating their contact information in the event that school authorities should need to contact them. This information shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, the parent's home and/or work address; the home, work, or cell phone number of both parents, and contact information of a relative or person trusted by the parents, in the event that parents cannot be immediately contacted during an emergency. This information shall be kept in a safe place and shall only be accessed by the school principal, his secretary, the school guidance counselor, or the school social worker.

(9) If a student is absent for more than three (3) consecutive days without any justification whatsoever, it shall be the responsibility of the school authorities to contact the parents or guardians of said student to determine the cause of said absences.

(10) The duties and responsibilities set forth in this Section shall not be construed as limiting or excluding any other right, duty, or responsibility that the school may grant or require of students.


Regulation Num. 8115. Article IX, G. Infractions and corrective or disciplinary measures.

Will be carried out as a measure to guarantee a safe environment in our school campuses. These can not be performed randomly. As the authorized officials must strictly follow the procedures laid out in the present Article, to guarantee the reasonableness thereof to perform the interventions with the students.

1. Authorized officials

a. Will have legitimacy to perform the entries and searches the following officials:

1) The School Principal

2) The teacher

3) The school’s officer

4) Law Enforcement Officer

1. Concepts

d. Corporal punishment is prohibited. Reasonable force will only be justified when it is essential to prevent bodily harm to others or to the offending student himself, as well as to avoid damages to student property. In these cases you will need to call the police, policeman, school security officer or other public official so that he may proceed to engage in corresponding charges.

Regulation Num. 8502. Article III. Definitions.

For the purposes of this regulation, the following terms and phrases shall have the definitions set forth below:

1. Unjustified Absences: This occurs when a student is absent from school or a school activity without a justified reason, as a parent, guardian, or custodian has not justified the absence in writing within 5 days.

2. Regular Absences: occurs when a student is absent from school or a school activity for more than 2 non-consecutive days a week.

3. Justified Absences and Tardiness: action consists of being absent from school for reasons of: health, pregnancy, hospitalization, court hearing, administrative hearing, death of a relative within the fourth degree of consanguinity or second degree of affinity, home emergency, as long as these situations are not recurrent, and any other situation that the director considers reasonable. The student shall submit the appropriate certification or excuse to justify his or her absence or tardiness. For example, medical certification, certification of hospitalization, death certificate, certification of appearance in court, among others. Excused absences or tardiness become suspicious when they occur in three (3) or more occasions in one school month for a term of three (3) or more consecutive months. In the case described above, the teacher should begin the procedure laid down in Article 4. 3. A.

4. Valid reason for absences in a class: when authorized officer requires the student to remain in another class, in an official school activity or appointment, in which case the school official will provide a written excuse to student before the teacher from course that the student will miss.

5. Cutting class: time a student is absent without justified cause to any of the courses in which her or she are enrolled.

6. Pattern of unexcused absences: When a student accumulates ten (10) or more unexcused absences or cutting class during the school year.

7. Support Personnel: refers to the social worker or school counselor who serves as facilitators in the school community.

8. Behavior problems: those aspects of attitudinal or of behavior that a student presents with measurable frequency, duration, and intensity that interrupt the processes in a classroom or within the context of the campus and that are related to biopsychosocial problems.

9. Discipline problems: those attitudinal aspects that disrupt the processes in a classroom or within the context of the campus, that violate the norms, rules, and institutional order, which alters the student-teacher relationship and affects performance of both the student and the teacher.

10. Program of Interdisciplinary Services for School Coexistence (SICE in Spanish): program for students that demonstrate behavioral problems as a pattern of antisocial behavior, violate institutional rules, challenge authority, exhibit aggressive behavior, or are at risk of leave school, among others. This referral is made after the school has exhausted all institutional efforts.

Regulation Num. 8502. Article IV. Procedure.

1. Teachers will follow the guidelines provided in Circular Letter 16-2013-2014, or the current circular letter, that establishes the procedure to be followed in implementing school retention norms of the Department of Education.

2. The school principal shall require teachers to keep a daily record of the students enrolled in the course and supervise the maintenance of this daily record of student attendance.

3. Next, the actions to follow according to the pattern of unjustified absences by the student.

A. 2 to 4 days

Responsible Person: Teacher

1. Notify the school principal and support staff on the student's unjustified absences.

2. Will carry out an investigation in which the teacher will consult with the team of teachers to check if the student’s behavior is repetitive in other classes and, if deemed appropriate, will interview collaterals.

3. Contact the parent, guardian, or custodian of the student through various means, such as phone calls, text messages, email, or written notice, among others, to inform of the unjustified absences and discuss the causes, if any, of them.

4. Will meet and discuss with the student alternatives to avoid incurring unjustified absences.

B. 5 to 9 days

Responsible Person: Teacher–Social Worker–School Counselor

1. The teacher will notify the unjustified absences in writing to the school principal and support staff.

2. The support staff will conduct an investigation in which he or she shall consult the team of teachers to see if the behavior is repetitive in their other classes and, if deemed appropriate, interview collaterals.

3. The support staff will contact the parent, guardian, or custodian of the student through various means, such as phone calls, text messages, email or written notice, among others, to coordinate an orientation meeting.

4. If necessary, the support staff will visit the student's home and report the findings to the school principal and the teacher that refers the situation.

5. The support staff will discuss with the parent, custodian, or guardian and the student the causes that have incurred in this pattern of absences, the alternatives to suspend this pattern of absences and ensure school attendance.

6. As a result of the discussion, support staff, parents, custodian, or guardian and the student will prepare a plan of action to prevent the child’s unjustified absences to school. The Intervention Plan Agreement will be signed by the support staff, the parents, guardian or custodian, and the student. Document C, Intervention Plan Agreement, located at the end of this Regulation shall be used for this agreement between the parties.

7. In addition, the support staff will ensure to orient the parent, guardian or custodian of the student on the administrative and legal consequences that may occur in the case of non-compliance with the Intervention Plan Agreement.

8. Similarly, the support staff will provide parents, guardians, or custodians a copy of Section 1.03 of the Law 149-1999, as amended, which provides that school attendance is compulsory and the corresponding actions regarding non-compliance with that Article.

9. Also, the support staff will ensure guidance to parents, guardians and custodians about Article IV subsection (c) and (d) of Regulation 8115 of December 8, 2011, known as General Student Regulations for the System of Education of Puerto Rico, and the public policy regarding the active integration of parents and guardians in the educational process in the schools of the Department of Education.

C. 10 days or more of incurring unjustified absences or cutting class

Responsible Person: Teacher–Social Worker–School Counselor–School Director

1. The teacher will inform in writing to the school principal and support staff on the pattern of unjustified absences by the student.

2. The support staff or the school principal will contact the parent, guardian or custodian of the student through various means, such as phone calls, text messages, email or written notice, among others, to inform the pattern absences and arrange a meeting if necessary.

3. The support staff or the school principal will refer, if necessary, the case to the Program of Interdisciplinary Services for School Coexistence (SICE) of educational region to which it belongs. This action will be taken once all the institutional remedies have been exhausted.

4. The school principal shall report in writing and refer to the corresponding social welfare agencies and the Prosecutor of the Department of Justice those parents, guardians, and custodians who fail to comply with the Intervention Plan Agreement. This process will be done in accordance with the table entitled "Notification of the Agencies."

5. The school principal shall inform the Juvenile Court when students participate in any judicial program (as diversion or dispositive).

4. In the case that the school doesn’t have support staff assigned, in line with the steps set out in the table above and according to the number of absences by the student, the school principal shall be responsible for performing all procedures delegated to the support staff.

5. The teacher will be responsible for registering in the Student lnformation System (SIE) the student has accumulated ten (10) or more unjustified absences or cuts of classes during the school year.

6. In addition, the school principal will register in the SIE relevant information regarding the referral done to the SICE, the social welfare agencies, or the Department of Justice.

7. The school principal will generate a report at the end of each school year about students who incurred in a pattern of unjustified absences and about the cases that were referred to the social welfare agencies and the Department of Justice. This report shall be sent to the Assistant Secretary of Student Support Services.

8. Notice to social welfare agencies and the Department of Justice will be done to the following offices:

Agency: Family Department (DF)

Legal Justification: Law 246-2011, Article 3, subsection (z), Article 5, subsection (7)

Place of Referral: Central Office of the DF

Program Office: Protection of Minors

Legal Justification: Law 149-1999, as amended, Article 1.03, subsection (c)

Place of Referral: Central Office of the DF

Program Office: Nutritional Assistance Program (PAN)

Agency: Public Housing Administration

Legal Justification: Law 149-1999, as amended, Article 1.03, subsection (c)

Place of Referral: Central Office of Housing

Program Office: Public Housing

Legal Justification: Law 149-1999, as amended, Article 1.03, subsection (c)

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