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Virtual Attendance: Q&A From a Legal Perspective

Virtual Attendance: Q&A From a Legal Perspective

It’s quickly becoming apparent that many schools will be offering at least a partial online curriculum option come fall. Naturally, questions have begun to arise about the monitoring of student attendance in a virtual setting. How and when will it be taken, and by whom? May a virtual student be considered “present” anywhere he/she logs in? What should a district attendance policy look like for virtual students? As with many school-related topics right now, this one could be tricky. A look at what the law says about attendance might be helpful as you navigate these issues.

70O.S. Section 1-111 tells us a school day must be no less than six hours, with certain exceptions. One of those is when a student is not physically present at school because they are participating in a board-approved online course. In that case, the student may be counted as being in attendance. The statute directs the State Board of Education to adopt rules providing for specific implementation guidelines for online courses.

With respect to the school day, OAC 210:15-34-4 provides, in part: “Students who elect to enroll in supplemental online courses, regardless of when or where taken, are still required to complete the equivalent number of hours of instruction as regularly enrolled students in the district and must satisfy the same attendance requirements of the district.” OAC 210: 15-34-10 tells us that attendance and participation is to be monitored through local district policy. A student may be counted as “present or “in attendance” upon a showing of evidence from the online course provider of“…student/teacher/course interaction that demonstrates student progress toward learning objectives and demonstrates regular student engagement in course activity.”

Finally, although not applicable to brick-and-mortar schools, Enrolled H.B. No. 2905 (effective July 1) provides a look at the legal requirements for student attendance policies for virtual charters. Some of the information in the bill could be useful in development of an online attendance policy for a non-charter school.  

Terri Thomas

Legal Services

Terri Thomas serves as Director of Legal Services for OPSRC. Ms. Thomas is an attorney practicing exclusively in the area of Oklahoma school law, with a primary focus on rural and smaller school districts. Prior to OPSRC, she served as legal counsel for the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools (OROS).

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