18 Laws Every Jacksonville Florida Parent Should Know About Part 2

Yesterday we looked at laws Jacksonville, Florida parents should know about. Here are a few more.

9. My kid is always bruised from playing. His teacher suspected we were abusing him and called the police and DCF on us. Why did she do that?
She was following Florida law, which requires any person who believes that a child is being abused, neglected or exploited to report the suspicions to the Department of Children and Families (DDCF). The law provides the person making the report with immunity, as long as she acted in good faith. If your son’s teacher hadn’t reported her suspicions, she could have been charged with a crime.

10. What does a child need to know before entering kindergarten?
Admission to a public kindergarten is not contingent upon what a child knows; if the child meets the age requirement, he or she is eligible for admission. The Florida Partnership for School Readiness has published “Performance Standards” for 3, 4, and 5 year olds. Those standards reflect what children should know and be able to do. You may access that information and other resources from the Partnership’s website. In addition, the Sunshine State Standards provide expectations for student achievement in Florida. These were written in seven subject areas, each divided into four separate grade clusters (PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12).

11. Where can I find information about my child’s teacher?
You can review all valid Florida Educator Certificates held by your child’s teacher by visiting the State of Florida’s Department of Education Educator Certification website and clicking on Certificate Lookup. Enter the teacher’s first and last name, and all currently valid certificates issued under that name will be displayed. If your child’s teacher has a common name, such as Mary Smith, you will need to contact your school district office to assist you in identifying the certificates held by your child’s teacher. Also, see Florida’s Public School Districts.

12. How old do my kids need to be before they can be left home alone?
The National SAFE KIDS Campaign recommends that children not be left alone before the age of 12. Many other children will not be ready until later than that. Also, experts caution that older siblings are generally not ready for the responsibility of supervising younger children until the age of 15 or older.
The following are some questions families should answer before making this important decision:

• Is my child comfortable, confident and willing to stay home alone?
• Does my child consistently follow my rules and guidelines?
• Has my child demonstrated good independent judgment and problem-solving skills in the past?
• Is my child able to stay calm and not panic when confronted with unexpected events?
• Have I brainstormed with my child about what unexpected situations could possibly come up while he or she is alone, and how to handle them?
• Is my child consistently truthful with me? Does he or she readily come to me with problems and concerns?
• Does my child understand the importance of safety and know basic safety procedures?
• Will my child make decisions to stay safe, even at the risk of seeming rude or overly cautious to other children or adults?
• Does my child have the ability to calmly provide his/her name, address, phone number and directions to our home in an emergency?
• Can my child lock and unlock the doors and windows of our home?
• Can my child tell time?
• Is my child able to work independently on homework?
• Have my child and I established a clearly structured routine for when he or she is home alone, with defined responsibilities and privileges?
• If I have more than one child staying home, have the children demonstrated the ability to get along well and solve conflicts without physical fighting or adult intervention?
• Have my child and I had some “dry runs” to allow him or her to practice self-care skills while I am at home, but purposefully “not available”?
• Is our neighborhood safe?
• Do we have neighbors that my child and I know and trust?
After reviewing this list of questions, you’ll have a better idea of how ready your child is to stay home alone. These are only general guidelines. Parents and other caregivers must also consider other factors specific to their individual child and family circumstances in order to make the best decision.

13. I lost my job and cannot afford the child support payments the court ordered me to pay. What are my options?
You must go to court to get your obligations changed. Even if your ex agrees to less, a judge must officially amend the reduction or you could be held in contempt of court with the possibility of jail.

14. How is a truant defined?
Florida law defines “habitual truant” as a student who has 15 or more unexcused absences within 90 calendar days with or without the knowledge or consent of the student’s parent or guardian, and who is subject to compulsory school attendance.

15. How do school districts determine if an absence is excused or unexcused?
Florida law requires local school districts to determine the meaning and conditions associated with excused absences, unexcused absences, and tardiness. In part, the statute requires each district school board to establish an attendance policy that includes the number of days a student must be in attendance per year and to determine whether an absence or tardy is excused or unexcused according to criteria established by the district school board.

16. Is there an exception made for absence due to illness?
When a student is continually sick and repeatedly absent from school, the student must be under the supervision of a doctor in order to receive an excuse. The doctor’s statement should confirm that the student’s condition requires his or her absence for more than the number of days permitted by the district school board policy.

17. Where can I get information about the FCAT?
The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) is part of Florida’s effort to improve the teaching and learning of higher educational standards. The primary purpose of the FCAT is to assess student achievement of the high-order cognitive skills represented in the Sunshine State Standards (SSS) in Reading, Writing, Mathematics, and Science.

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