States, Cities Vary on Approaches to Truancy

Jacksonville, Florida is taking steps that will lead to a stricter enforcement of its truancy ordinance, WLDS.com reports. Earlier this week, city leaders and law enforcement officers met to discuss ways that the city could work together with aldermen to bring down the number of students considered to be chronically truant — and their approach [...]

Jacksonville, Florida is taking steps that will lead to a stricter enforcement of its truancy ordinance, WLDS.com reports. Earlier this week, city leaders and law enforcement officers met to discuss ways that the city could work together with aldermen to bring down the number of students considered to be chronically truant — and their approach will have a marked effect on some Jacksonville parents.

Students are considered chronically truant when they are absent from school for more than 9 days out the academic year without an excuse. Currently, Jacksonville’s District 117 is home to 150 kids who meet that standard.

“Truancy has been big on my mind because education is such a big deal here in the city,” says Williams. “So, what we did is allow the city to know we have revived an ordinance and this ordinance is going to stick. We’re going to take it to its fullest extent and if you aren’t going to abide by the ordinance then there is going to be consequences.”

Under the truancy ordinance, students who are found to be truant face an escalating series of punishments that begin with a citation and a ticket ranging from $25 to $100 plus $40 in court costs. Violators can also be sentenced to community service — and their parents, if they are found to have abetted the truancy, face similar fines and punishments. In addition, parents could be mandated by the court to attend parenting classes.

Jacksonville isn’t the only city in America taking truancy seriously. This Wednesday, parents in Cleveland took part in Redirecting Our Curfew Kids program at which the dangers of allowing children to stay out past curfew were explained and discussed. The program, known as ROCK, is a combined effort between the Cleveland Municipal Court and the Juvenile Court to help parents of children of chronic violators of the city’s curfew and truancy laws avoid having to pay $150 tickets plus court costs. Instead, they will be required to attend a two-hour ROCK presentation on the negative impact of chronic school absenteeism and curfew violations destroy kids’ lives.

“Truancy has been big on my mind because education is such a big deal here in the city,” says Williams. “So, what we did is allow the city to know we have revived an ordinance and this ordinance is going to stick. We’re going to take it to its fullest extent and if you aren’t going to abide by the ordinance then there is going to be consequences.”

Legislators in Colorado, however, seem less enthusiastic about managing truancy. An upcoming attempt by State Representative Rhonda Fields of Aurora to introduce a measure that might bring down instances of truancy all over the state has already met with criticism, mostly from those who feel that a state-wide policy on the issue would strip too much control from local governments.

The legislator members of the task force voted 3-2 against endorsing the bill.

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