Chief District Court Judge Brenda Branch has ruled that Halifax County (NC) parents are going to be held accountable for their children's school attendance — and that could mean jail if they are not deemed to have made an effort to promote school attendance, writes the Daily Herald.
The proposal is a collaborative effort between the Halifax County court system, three public school systems and county agencies that are looking to address truancy issues for students in the district.
It was announced this week at the Halifax County Community Child Protection Team meeting. Branch, along with District Attorney Melissa Pelfrey delivered the message as many heavy hitters in the Halifax County law and public education fields rallied behind the proposal.
"There was much confusion around who's responsibility it was to handle truancy that some children were missing from 40 to 80 days from school without suffering any consequences," said Arnethia Nicholson, chair of the team and Halifax County Department of Social Services employee.
The combined efforts of the school systems, Halifax County court system, Department of Juvenile Justice, Department of Social Services and The Community Child Protection Team resulted in the Tri-District Truancy Procedure, which could ultimately land a parent in front of a judge.
More than six unexcused absences from schools and a parent or guardian will be notified by mail that they may be in violation of the Compulsory Attendance Law and may be prosecuted if the absences cannot be justified under the school system's attendance policy.
If a student continues the behavior and accumulates 10 unexcused absences and the school principal determines the parent has not made an effort to comply with the law, the district attorney's office will be notified along and a criminal warrant for school attendance law violation against the parent or guardian will be secured.
Andy Kennedy, a former principal at Manning Elementary and current director of support services for the Roanoke Rapids Graded School District, said the new procedure clarifies things for school officials.
"Hopefully, in the long run, it will get children in school," he said.
Dr. Michael Felt, director of Halifax County Department of Social Services, agreed:
"This is a formal way of letting parents know they are responsible for the well-being of the child," he said. This means making sure they are in school, he added.