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    Skip school? Mom and Dad go to jail

    Date: 02.22.09 | by Judge Tom.

    That’s right. Vanessa’s father is serving a 50-day jail sentence in California for failing to keep his daughter in school.  Vanessa is described as a 5th-grade dropout. Her problems started in third-grade with excessive absences. Her attendance in 6th and 7th grade dwindled to only two or three days a year.

    She was teased about her weight which caused her to dislike going to school. Local authorities and the school district offered counseling, parent conferences, mental and physical health assistance. Nothing seemed to work.

    Vanessa and her parents were reportedly given every opportunity to avoid jail. But they didn’t follow through with the services offered. California’s dropout rate is estimated at 24%, causing truancy to be a priority for law enforcement. The local police chief was quoted saying “Jail is an extreme last resort.”

    Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt

    When Vanessa’s father is released in March, 2009, her mother will begin her 50 days of incarceration. Vanessa is now in counseling and willing to do anything to avoid more jail-time for her parents.

    This incident in California is an example of how states are taking education and truancy seriously. Other states are cracking down on chronic truancy with similar penalties including fines, mandatory classes for parents and incarceration. America’s education system is suffering for a number of reasons, but regular attendance by students required by law to attend, must be enforced. Our future depends on an educated populace.

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    4 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • Caesar
      Wed, 27 Apr 2011 at 10:23

      do they get sent to a real jail or do they go to a special one. if they do go to a real jail will they get hurt?
      Dear Caesar: We are not aware of the exact facility where these parents had to serve their time. Most likely it was the local jail, not prison, that also holds other offenders. Jails are responsible for maintaining a safe and secure environment for all residents regardless of crime or length of stay. Your concern is commendable.
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

    • Julie
      Wed, 01 Jun 2011 at 10:53

      I am dealing with an issue for my daughter right now. She missed alot of school because she was always sick. This was due to the fact that kids were mean to her. We moved and she was able to go to another elementary school in the same district. She loves school now, apparently this school has a much better handle on bullying! Her attendance has improved greatly, she has only missed school when sent home by the school for medical reasons. And for her grandmas funeral. Now even though she has improved I hae been taken to court. They are blaming us for neglect and threatining to make her a ward of the court. They say there was a trauncy meeting that I did not show up to however I never received notice that there was a meeting being held. The only notice Ive received was a 2 minute conversation with the principal when he asked me if her medical concerns were still an issue because her attendance was imortant. I told him that they were not. I dont understand why my family is being forced to go thru this after there is an obvious improvement in my daughters attendance. I am a great mother and my kids live in a loving and nurturing home. I am sick about this, Seriously it is driving me to a nervous breakdown. I have pleaded with the states attorney that I will cooperate or sign an attendance contract with them to avoid all of this legal stuff and they are not willing to do that. I understand that truancy is an important issue, however I believe that the ourts & school system should take as much action to prevent bullying and teasing at school. I am sure that the majority of elementary truancy issues are due to a serious medical concern, or the childs being afraid to go to school because of being teased. Also its something how hen your child throws up or has a fever or lice they are not allowed in school, but those issues still cause the parents to get in trouble for truancy if they happen more than the average student!
      Dear Julie: We suggest that you take any documentation you have regarding your daughter’s absences with you to court. You’ll be given a chance to explain the situation and what’s caused her unexcused absences. It will be up to the judge to decide the outcome. This may include the attendance contract that you mentioned and/or attending a truancy class. If there are other issues involved (neglect, supervision, etc.) the court will review that with you and you can decide how you want to proceed. You may be eligible for a court-appointed attorney if the issues are more serious than truancy. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

    • thadeouspayne
      Sun, 11 Dec 2011 at 05:59

      if i skipped every day the same classes for 2months but when to school for 6hours will my mother likely go to jail but i turn 17 in a couple of weeks and thats the legal age in texas
      Dear thadeouspayne: First, you may want to check your school’s Student Handbook for its policy concerning unexcused absences. You can also ask your school’s attendance officer about the attendance rules and policies. Although you may be facing consequences for your absences, it’s unlikely that your mother will go to jail if you’ve never been to truancy court and/or your mother hasn’t yet been warned to make sure you get to school. However, be sure to get to class rather than risk your mother also facing penalties for your absences. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice.)

    • Alicia
      Mon, 06 Feb 2012 at 09:30

      I’m 15, and I have been going to court for almost a year now due to truancy. I started missing classes in sixth grade when my mom got sick, but now it it’s habit. I’ve tried SO hard to wake up and not skip the first class of the day… but sometimes I do. I’m absolutly terrifed my mom, who is my only guardian and disabled, will go to jail because of me. Or that I will go to juvienille hall… It terrifies me. I try really hard, no one belives that, but I do. I don’t want to become a ward of the court.
      Dear Alicia: This situation is entirely in your hands. You know what the consequences are where you live if your truancies continue. Many states have cracked down on truancy including fines and jail-time for the parents. So, if that’s what you’re facing, you need to do whatever it takes to get up on time and get to your first class. Get to bed early enough to get the sleep you need, set the alarm and when it goes off, think about your Mom not being there because she’s in jail thanks to you. Once you start an earlier schedule, it will become a habit and not so difficult. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

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