Politics & Government

NC lawmakers don’t want schools to mark students absent when they visit legislature

A child’s inability to see her grandfather be sworn into the state legislature could make it easier in the future for students to miss school to visit the North Carolina General Assembly.

The state House voted 110-2 on Tuesday to pass “Katelyn’s Law,” a bill that would make it an excused absence for attending a legislative event or visiting the General Assembly for any purpose, including service as a legislative page. The bill was inspired by how Rep. Donny Lambeth, a Forsyth County Republican, says his granddaughter missed his swearing-in ceremony because she was concerned her middle school would mark it as an unexcused absence.

House Bill 151 now goes to the Senate.

The original version of the bill cited several examples that would be eligible for excused absences, such as being a legislative page, attending the legislative swearing-in ceremony of a parent or grandparent and attending an event in which the student’s relative is receiving special recognition by lawmakers.

But the bill was amended Tuesday to include the more general language.

The legislation also says that school districts can’t count excused absences from attending legislative events against students in any local student attendance recognition programs.

Several lawmakers had brought their children with them to Raleigh to watch them be sworn in on the first day of this year’s legislative session in January. But Lambeth, the bill’s primary sponsor, told a legislative committee in March that his granddaughter didn’t attend because she was worried about how her school would treat her absence.

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.