Tracking Down Parents For Truant Students
Sonora, CA – It’s the first countywide truancy sweep to put parents on notice in Tuolumne County that students skipping school will not be tolerated.
Eleven parents were charged and five were cited and released on Thursday during the “Operation Education Matters” program carried out by Tuolumne County District Attorney Laura Krieg’s office. It is a joint effort of several law enforcement agencies and the Tuolumne County Superintendent of Schools with funding provided through a state grant.
“Parents need to know that we will aggressively prosecute these cases to protect children and their future,” said Krieg. “Research shows that children who miss substantial periods of school are more likely to drop out of high school and eighty percent of the United States prison population are high school dropouts,” added Krieg.
None of the parents were arrested and taken to jail. Instead to minimize disruption to the families they were cited for misdemeanor violations of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, failing to address truancy, and/or violations of the education code and released.
Tuolumne County Superintendent of Schools Cathy Parker notes that 12.7 percent of students were chronically absent in the 2018-19 school year, that’s higher than the state’s average of 12.1 percent. She further explains the problem this way, “In some cases that we’ve had here, we’re talking about students who haven’t been in school for multiple years. It’s a very serious situation. Some are missing grade levels of education.”
Parker’s office houses a centralized School Attendance Review Board (SARB) to addresses student truancy issues. Parker emphasizes that only when all other efforts have failed do, they resort to this measure. She calls it the last resort adding that it is an effort to bring the parties together in order to best serve the child. Parker says there are many services available including “special education and transportation services, nutrition programs drug and alcohol counseling, anything that is needed to help that child thrive.”
Once cited, a court date will be set where a judge will hear from the parents along with a representative from the superintendent’s office to determine the next steps. The judge can hand down fines to parents that do not cooperate, according to Parker, who adds the amounts can vary into hundreds of dollars.
That is not the route Parker wants to go, however. Instead, she insists parents are the key in providing the needed services to families and implores them “We can’t do that without you actually bringing your children to school or showing up to the SARB meetings in order to access those services. We’re here to help you. We don’t want this to be an adversarial process,” invokes Parker.
Ultimately, Parker stresses the goal is to provide support to families before it gets to this level, stating, “We want to attack it when the problems first start in order to aid in raising productive members of society.”