The Edinburgh Evening News reports that two Scottish parents have been convicted of allowing their teenaged children to be unacceptably truant from school last year. In these two separate cases, school officials felt that the truancy was severe enough that the parents must suffer legal penalties. Neither the students nor parents are identified by name to protect the identity of minors.
Prosecutors and school officials acknowledged that both teen students were unwilling to go to school and had chronic conflict with their parents.
In the case of a mother and daughter, the girl was physically larger than her mother, an hourly-wage laundry worker. The school had a welfare officer working with the family, but the sanctions the officer suggested to put on the girl led to a hysterical response and the mother gave up. She stopped meeting with the welfare officer and her daughter continued to be truant, attending 157 days out of 335.
Although the mother pleaded not guilty, the Edinburgh Justice of the Peace court convicted and assigned her a fine of £150.
The other student in question, a boy, had both a mother and father at home, but only the father was held responsible for school failure, The mother worked full-time and the father only part-time, so that it was his role to make sure their son got to school. He said that they have a relationship with a lot of conflict.
Edinburgh's Justice of the Peace Court was told yesterday that the teenage boy, who is in third year at high school, had only made it into class on 159 out of 335 school days, and had a "difficult" relationship with his father.
Although the father pleaded guilty, his sentence was deferred, partly because the boy's attitude had reported improved over the summer. His attendance will be monitored to see if it continues to be better.
School officials said that they were reluctant to prosecute these parents, but they felt they had no other choice.
Education convener Paul Godzik said: "Prosecution is a last resort – before we consider it we will use all available recourses and statutory interventions to try and improve a pupil's attendance. "As has been proved, despite our best efforts, some parents fail to take adequate measures to improve their child's attendance at school."
A spokesman for the teachers' union in Scotland said that he hoped these convictions would send a clear message to parents that it is up to them to make sure their kids attend school.
These Scottish parents are not alone in troubles with teenage truancy; New York City schools have equally severe problems with absenteeism. A study showed that a third of all NY high school students are absent for more than 20 days in the school year, while some are absent far more than that, and some schools have more problems with absent students than others. In NY's worst case, more than one-third of students are absent on an average day.
Schools have personnel assigned to dealing with truancy, often requiring them to track down missing students. Budget cuts mean that fewer and fewer staff are available to handle this task. This puts parents more and more on the hook, even when they are working.