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Texas House advances bill to decriminalize skipping school

The Texas House has approved a potentially landmark measure to stop charging students who skip school with a criminal offense.

Houston Democratic Rep. Harold Dutton’s bill passed on a voice vote Friday and now needs only a final procedural vote to clear the House.

A similar measure already passed the Senate, but the bills are different and each would have to pass the opposite chamber before becoming law.

In fiscal year 2014, nearly 100,000 Texas students received misdemeanors for too many unexcused absences. Under Dutton’s proposal, 10 unexcused absences in six months, or three in four weeks, would result in a civil fine of $100 maximum.

But advocates say they hope Dutton’s bill will be changed to become more like the Senate version, which contains more responsibilities for school districts.

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