• Should parents be punished for your truancy?

    Date: 02.18.11 | by Judge Tom.

    West Virginia is taking a close look at their education system and the ongoing problem with students who are late to school or ditch full days.

    A state senator is introducing a bill this legislative session that will result in the loss of driving privileges for parents. The aim of the bill is to attack high absenteeism and truancy. Senator Erik Wells explained that parents will receive a warning when their child hits five unexcused absences. When the number hits ten, their licenses will be revoked.

    Mr. Wells commented that “You are hampering that child’s ability to succeed in life by keeping them out of school. Why should the state of West Virginia and the taxpayers of this state, who are perhaps going to have to take care of that child, allow you the privilege of driving? There needs to be consequences.”

    Another option under consideration is suspending a student’s opportunity to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities. That would put the consequence directly on the offending student. See how other states are handling their truancy challenges including California where parents have served jail time for their kid’s truancy.

    A different aproach to the problem was initiated in the Los Angeles School District in 2011. Rather than ticket students requiring them and their parents to appear in court, emphasis on the issues behind truancy are being addressed. School resource officers will focus on getting the student to school on time without the use of handcuffs, frisks and searches. A closer partnership with principals, parents and teachers is the goal.

    In July, 2011, the Concord, California city council unanimously passed a daytime curfew for all students between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. This was in an effort to lessen daytime crime and rampant truancy. A first offense merits a warning by the police with subsequent violations carrying fines between $100 and $500. The court is authorized to issue a bench warrant for any student who fails to appear at the truancy hearing. An exception was included in the new law for students who are home-schooled.

    In November, 2011, Halifax County in Virginia started the Tri-District Truancy Procedure. After more than six unexcused absences, the parents will be notified that they may be in violation of the state’s Compulsory Attendance  Law. Once a student hits ten unexcused absences, the case goes to the principal who determines if the parents have made an effort to follow the law. If they haven’t the prosecutor steps in and the parents must appear in Truancy Court. Neglecting a child’s education is a class one misdemeanor in Virginia that carries up to 120 days in jail.

    As you know, there is a night and day difference between an excused and unexcused absence. Even if you’re not sick, you may be allowed an excused absence for a good reason. Parents often take their kids out of school for a special trip or educational opportunity. As long as it’s not abused by repetitive absences, especially in higher grades, schools recognize the demands of family issues and schedules. Your responsibility, if excused, is to keep up with the work and turn in any required assignments.

    Recently, the young daughters of President and Mrs. Obama missed some school. Their Christmas vacation took Malia (12) and Sasha (9) to Hawaii to be with family members. Their stay extended into the new semester by two days. It is not uncommon for parents to call in and excuse their kids for special occasions, family time, or just a mental health day. As long as the work is made up, no tests are missed, and it doesn’t become a habit, then it’s usually a non-issue.

    Rather than taking parents to court for excessive truancy, an inventive 15-year-old has created a texting application that sends parents messages and emails when their kids skip school. Zak Kukoff tested his program in schools in several states. In New York, one-half of the chronically absent students returned to school the day the messages went out. An unexpected effect of his program was noticed in Los Angeles. When tested, the incidents of shoplifting dropped 82%. Take a look at Zak’s program at:  www.truanttoday.com.

    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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    3 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • Tulsa Divorce Attorney Matt Ingham
      Tue, 19 Jul 2011 at 07:45

      Parents should be held legally accountable for their children’s absenteeism and truancy because quite frankly, there must be accountability in young people’s education. That being said, the punishment for perpetrators must be reasonable (ie, the punishment must fit the crime). I do not see how temporarily suspending a parent’s license will benefit young people’s education.
      Possibly, since a driver’s license is so essential to one’s life, the risk of losing it will get the attention of the parent who in turn will see that their kids go to school. Thanks for your thoughts, Matt.

    • Christine
      Thu, 27 Oct 2011 at 03:18

      I do feel that parents should be held responsible for students excessive absences and if they are truant for the start of school. I do not feel that they should be held responsible for children who ditch classes during the school day while under the care and watch of the child’s school. If I legally have to send my kids to school and intrust their care and safety into the school they are attending and they leave and come back while under the school’s supervision, I should not be punished as a parent. Unless they expect me to quit my job and go with her to school all day long, while receiving welfare; it can’t be done! I think the child should be punished in any way necessary, whether it be community service, etc. If I as a parent have grounded her and from everything possible, taken her to counseling, and have done whatever I can to stop her negative behavior, what should a parent then do. Give there children up to the court? Too much blame is placed on parents, instead of placing the responsibility and blame on the children; who need to learn some valuable lessons.
      Dear Christine: You make some good points. Most courts will look at the entire situation and spread the responsibility around so both parent and child work together to address the truancy problem. States are cracking down in this area with penalties for parent & child when nothing is done to keep the child in school – often referred to as educational neglect.

    • destiny
      Tue, 07 Feb 2012 at 06:48

      ive had 2 truancy tickets in the past year & on my last court date I didn’t show up. ive recently got another truancy ticket, whats the judge goning to do?
      That’s a good question, Destiny. Whatever you do, don’t miss your next hearing. In some states, judges are authorized to issue arrest warrants for people who fail to appear in court. It’s time to face the music so you can get on with your life. You may be eligible for “diversion.” If that happens, when you finish the diversion program, the case is dismissed and you don’t have a record. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

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