$12,000 in truancy fines?
After three unexcused absences from school, Pennsylvania law allows parents and students to be fined. The court also has the option to order community service and a parenting education program. A parent who fails to comply may be sent to jail for up to five days.
The maximum fine is up to $300 – for each unexcused absence. This applies to parents and students age 13 and older. Parents who can show the court that they took every reasonable step to get their kids to school are not penalized. The law also authorizes the court to remove children from their home in extreme cases.
In January, 2011, a lawsuit was filed in federal court against the Lebanon School District by four parents and the NAACP. The suit alleges the district imposed illegal and excessive fines including one student fined a total of $12,000 and a parent whose fines totaled $27,000. The plaintiffs claim that the school district didn’t try to work with parents to resolve problems – instead the schools acted punitively in assessing the fines rather than to deter truancy.
The school district stopped imposing fines during the past year but the suit alleges there are over $100,000 in unreturned illegal fines collected. This, obviously is an extreme case. However, many school districts are looking closely at measures to reduce truancy and dropout rates.