• Some states cracking down on truants

    Date: 09.27.10 | by Judge Tom.

    Unexcused absences from school is not a new trend.  Ditching or playing hooky is an age-old problem that’s generated little buzz in most communities.  However, a recent spike in non-attendance in both grade school and high school has gotten the attention of a few state legislatures.

    In the Oakland School District in California, 5,000 students between kindergarten and the eighth grade missed 5 days during the 2008-2009 school year.  Another 2,000 students missed 10 days or more.  To address the problem, legislation is pending that will criminalize truancy.  California Senate Bill 1317, if passed, will classify truancy as a misdemeanor with penalties including jail time and fines for parents.  Florida and Texas have similar laws already in place.

    Photo by Eyesogreen (Flickr)

    Some states classify chronic truancy as educational neglect by the parents of the children.  Under specific child protection laws the state may step in and bring the matter before a judge.  When the court has the parents in court and issues orders requiring them to do everything in their power to get their kids to school, the court can use its contempt powers when they fail to comply.   This may result in a finding of contempt and possible jail time.

    In an Arizona case a few years back, the court set a review of its orders in a truancy case.  The hearing was scheduled for the third week of December at the end of the first semester.  Since the parents didn’t follow through as ordered, they were found in contempt of court and sent to jail for the next two weeks.  Their children were placed in foster care over the holiday break.

    Most truancy violations won’t have such drastic endings.  Parents will be given an opportunity to correct the problem and, with a deferred judgment or prosecution, avoid a criminal record.  Some parents may be ordered to attend parenting classes or substance abuse treatment when appropriate.

    New York City has been battling truancy for many years. In 2012, a new program called “It’s 9:00 a.m.: Do You Know Where Your Kids Are?” was begun. It’s an effort to involve parents in their children’s education and future. Statistics have shown that the graduation rate of students who miss more than 20 days a school-year diminishes.

    In a September, 2012 study by the Getting Schooled non-profit organization, 42% of the students surveyed reported that their parents never or rarely knew when they skipped school. The number one reason for their missing school was that it’s boring, and 65% reported hanging out with friends as the activity of choice when skipping (“Skipping to Nowhere” study).

    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.

    • Askthejudge.info
      Mon, 27 Sep 2010 at 03:24

      Should ditching school be a crime? Stome state legislatures think it should. http://fb.me/INX9lOrI

    • Free Spirit Publ
      Mon, 27 Sep 2010 at 03:34

      RT @ask_the_judge: Should ditching school be a crime? Stome state legislatures think it should. http://fb.me/INX9lOrI

    • Should parents be punished for their children’s truancy? | reportergary.com
      Fri, 18 Feb 2011 at 10:51

      [...] 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 [...]

    • Justin
      Mon, 05 Aug 2013 at 11:42

      to be honest student really have NO rights if a teacher is verbally abusing them/someone else no one will believe a child and its sad but i say that minors have no rights whatsoever and being truant theres gotta be a reason they skipped either they just dont wanna go or someones bullying them i actually skipped school quite a few times because a teacher would humiliate me in front of the entire class room and worse not to rant but so a parent is blamed and in trouble and seeing it as “Neglecting education” well maybe i dont wanna go and thats my mother/fahters fault?!?! Thats why i really dislike most laws becuase they are directed at minors alot of them are…..
      Thanks, Justin, for your thoughts on this. -Judge Tom

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