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Sat Jun 20, 2015, 10:17 PM

Law Decriminalizes School Truancy

Source: Associated Press

Law Decriminalizes School Truancy
JUNE 20, 2015

DALLAS — A longstanding Texas law that has sent about 100,000 students a year to criminal court — and some to jail — for missing school is off the books, while a Justice Department investigation into one county’s truancy courts continues.

Gov. Greg Abbott has signed into law a measure to decriminalize unexcused absences and require school districts to put preventive measures into effect. It will take effect Sept. 1.

Opponents of the previous law said the threat of a heavy fine — up to $500, plus court costs — and a criminal record was not keeping children in school and was sending those who could not pay into a criminal justice system spiral.

Under that law, students as young as 12 could be ordered to court if they had three unexcused absences in four weeks. Schools were required to file a misdemeanor failure to attend school charge against students with more than 10 unexcused absences in six months. Unpaid fines landed some students behind bars when they turned 17.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/21/us/texas-law-decriminalizes-school-truancy.html?_r=0

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sat Jun 20, 2015, 10:21 PM

1. You have to be incredibly rich, or insane, to live in Texas.


Or trapped by circumstances beyond your control.

I'd like to think that in a similar State, I would run, not walk, to the border, taking my loved ones with me.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sun Jun 21, 2015, 03:05 AM

2. I don't understand how such a law could have been approved in the first place. n/t

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Response to Little Tich (Reply #2)

Sun Jun 21, 2015, 07:22 AM

3. Probably part of the "3 strikes you're out" idiocy and the need to plug budget holes. nt

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Response to BumRushDaShow (Reply #3)

Sun Jun 21, 2015, 10:14 AM

4. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

I teach outside of Houston. This law probably seemed like a good idea at one time. Would seem like a good idea if the track record didn't show it was fairly pointless.

First, a note from the parent or guardian avoids the "truancy" label. It's just that easy. To wind up in court you have to be truant *and* negligent.

Second, if you have more than 10 unexcused absences in a semester, you're denied credit. You can make up the time and work and get credit restored. But if you make it hard, you fail kids too much for a good school rating. If you make it easy, kids see that they can slack off and do 5 or 10 days' worth of work and get 90 days' credit. The injustice to the other kids is obvious.

Not to mention that it means January and February are never truly done for the teachers. Tutorials after school with 5 kids can cover 5 months, meaning tutorials are pointless. You're dealing with one topic for one kid while 4 others need help on 4 other topics. That's one foolish use of time.

Third, "plugging budget gaps" is a real issue, but not because anybody really profits from all the court costs and fines. Schools would get much more money from the state capitol and even more from Washington, DC, if they simply cut down on unexcused absences. That's what this law was, among other things, intended to do. All the fears of vouchers really has three motives. The first is loss of clout to teacher unions and worker solidarity; the second is loss of control over the curriculum; and the third is loss of money. It's usually presented mostly as a loss of money, because the more students you have the more money you get.

By the way, although the poster child for this kind of behavior is the spoiled wealthy kid, most of the time these kids are (a) black, formerly urban males; (b) rural whites; (c) randomly selected kids with behavioral, emotional, or substance abuse problems. Sometimes they're in two of my categories. Perhaps (a) and (b) are in the wrong order if it's by decreasing numbers of students, that's a hard call.

Parents often say they didn't know their kid was absent. Fine--every absence gets a robocall home. When they get into "denial of credit" territory counselors and principals start talking to the kid and parents. The kid often intercepts the calls or email or submits a phony change of information card so the phone number and email on record is wrong. Or the parents bounce around too much because they're very low SES and can't afford to stay in one place with one set of contact info. Some parents really don't know. Because of circumstances or because their kid's manipulative and lying. A lot of parents know and don't care. More than a few probably don't care and lie, saying they didn't know, and I've run into parents thick as bricks who simply didn't realize what all the Fs on report cards, calls home, emails actually meant. "What? Little Suzie isn't going to graduate? She's 19 and still classified a sophomore because of denied credit and truancies? She said she was in court for a traffic ticket!"

But a lot of parents do know, just don't care, and say so. "He's 18, that's his choice." If it started before the kid turned 18, well, "He knew what he'd be doing, why should he waste time if he knew he'd be dropping out of school when he turned 18." Except this happens when the kid is 15 and 16, as well. Sometimes parents are the problem--they kept the kid home to do work and didn't bother to write a note. Education isn't important to them, or to their kids. It is to the state. Sometimes the parents need help. "I just can't control this kid." (Well, sometimes there are reasons for that and you need to look in the mirror. Sometimes there aren't.)

The problem with taking kids to court is largely appearances. It looks cruel; letting them fail out is also cruel; giving teachers hours of extra work trying to cover the students' butts so they can graduate after being truant but without really learning hardly anything is cruel and cynical. Everybody's running to hurt somebody with all the best intentions of being the great savior of recalcitrant students.

Problem is, this particular law has little effect. The kids--black or redneck or users--really have no use for authority or school. They're truant; they lie to their parents, or their parents also have no use for authority. That carries over into the courts. That particular system they often learn to play just fine.

Little Suzie (fake name) in the last 90 days of her senior year missed more than 50 class days, and that was *without* an excusal note. Include those school activity days (Suzie lied, said she was doing well in classes, and got a hectic principal to sign off for her) and Suzie was out for nearly 80. One of those 80 was for a court appearance for truancy. Suzie went and lied through her teeth to the judge, knowing that by the time the school could report continued truancy to the courts and the court could do anything it would be months later, she'd be 18 and out of school for good.

Note that Dylann Roof repeated 9th grade and dropped out of school. I'm betting that he was truant a lot and either his father and stepmother didn't care or couldn't control him. I wonder how it would have gone if he'd been in court a time or two for truancy?

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Response to Igel (Reply #4)

Sun Jun 21, 2015, 11:06 AM

6. Meant to post in reply here - When I was growing up

and in school in the late '60s and into the '70s, I remember the fear of God placed in our little minds about the "truant officer", out looking for kids who were "cutting" or not where they were supposed to be.

I used to be a long-term sub in junior and senior high schools over 30 years ago, in probably the poorest district ("district" in terms of how here in Philly, they used to divide up the city's public school system into 8 geographic "districts", and saw the issues of attendance. The one thing that did hearten me back then was that because I did care, and made due with my own teaching materials about the subject matter that I was assigned vs the dept. heads basically handing me pile of "workbooks" for the kids to work on every day, I eventually had those kids cease with the absences and lateness, and even had kids cutting other classes to come to mine.

The issue with these types of "rules" is the uneven application. When you have wealthier or more educated parents frequently storm in to a school to question or explain, it helps that child. But a large number of parents work in positions where they can't do that (or they won't get paid that day). I know my mother (who herself had once been a teacher), would not only storm in the school, but would write lengthy notes to the teacher, with handwritten copies given to the department head, the principal, and the District Superintendent (my parents eventually bought one of the early small consumer-size thermal photocopiers and it got alot of use).

And so although certain rebellious behaviors may actually be "universal", those kids with parents having the most resources are the ones who can intervene for something that could impact the child, while those who don't have the resources end up suffering, further compounding their own "lot in life", and their child's future. And unfortunately in many urban areas, if the family is black, no amount of education or wealth will "automatically" assure anything near getting a pass - that family has to go to all kinds of lengths to rectify the situation, where this is not so for many white families.

Sadly back when I was in school (and I expect even today), a black family's college degrees, positions, and income were irrelevant to many teachers (many of whom were the first to graduate from college themselves), because of some ingrained superiority complex.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sun Jun 21, 2015, 01:05 PM

7. Who were the sick fucks who put this law into place and then **enforced it** in the first place? nt

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