Are Fines and Jail Time Appropriate Consequences for Truancy?
September 18, 2012
My first grade daughter's excused absences totaled 27, the January letter reported. The letter warned that any more absences and we'd be referred to a truancy officer.
Across the country in cities like Dallas, Atlanta, and Lynchburg parents like me are facing worse than warning letters -- they're facing hundreds of dollars in fines and jail time if the fines aren't paid.
It's a "truancy crackdown" meant to improve test scores, school funding, and graduation rates.
For us, it felt like harassment.
My daughter had severe anxiety which created legitimate sicknesses in her body, with puke and everything. But, more than that, she missed school to see a therapist once a week. Since anxiety affected her learning and her health, therapy was our biggest priority - so we let her miss school. It was the only appointment time available at the time. Every time we check out at the office, the secretary glared at me. Our therapist filled out mountains of paperwork to prove she was legitimate. All the absences were excused.
According to The Atlantic, Elizabeth Diaz, a poverty-level student in Hidalgo County, Texas, was on track to graduate until she was fined for missing school. When she couldn't pay, she was sent to jail resulting in disenrollment from school. It didn't matter why she missed school -- fibromyalgia and bipolar disorder. It just matter that she missed.
Or what about the Rhode Island 13-year old with sickle cell anemia who missed school because of pain? His mom was threatened with jail time. She sent her son to school sick - and the school eventually called an ambulance for him.
I can understand the school districts wanting kids to be in school. I can understand when the absences are unexcused. I can even understand having consequences. But, excused absences? Fines? Jail time?
There's got to be a better way.
What do you think? Comment here.
Melissa Taylor is a freelance writer, an award-winning educational blogger at ImaginationSoup, an award-winning teacher with a M.A. in Education, and a mom of two children, ages 6 and 9. Follow Taylor on Twitter or find her on Facebook.
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