TRUANT POLICY: AFTER
KIDS, PARENTS OR CASH?
By Ron Lee
November 12, 2004
12:55 AM Eastern
GRANTS PASS, Oregon - Students in the District 7 public school system are not attending classes as they should. In the 2003 - 2004 school year 1,424 students missed 14 days or more of school. Of this 1,424, 200 missed 34 or more days. 100 of the biggest offenders were in high school. While The level of truancy and tardiness meet the state-determined 92% attendance rate at most schools, there are some that fall short and school officials are introducing an attendance initiative to bolster attendance and enforce the revised Grants Pass School District 7 Compulsory Attendance Policy. Keeping to the 92% attendance ratio also secures federal funds from the No Child Left Behind Act promised to each state.
Under the compulsory attendance policy, "Failure to send a student and to maintain a student in regular attendance is a Class C violation and is punishable by a citation up to $150 ... A parent who is not supervising his/her student by requiring school attendance may also be in violation ... Failing to supervise a child is a Class A violation and punishable by a fine up to $600." The Policy also sets up a system whereby the student could lose his/her driving privileges should they miss 10 consecutive days unexcused absence or 15 cumulative days in a single semester.
With a three-tiered approach the District 7 school board plans to raise the level of school attendance by first contacting the parent(s) or guardian(s) of a student who has missed four days or 8 half days of school and letting them know there is a problem. Second, if there is no improvement after the initial contact, there is a school and community member support team that reviews the case and issues another contact of the parent(s). Then finally, "Compulsory attendance citations may be issued by the superintendent or designee as a means to enforce the compulsory attendance law." per the Oregon School Boards Association. The fine will be issued by an officer of the court, titled the School Resource Officer and is a member of the Grants Pass police department.
According to Cheryl Norfleet, who is heading up the attendance initiative, "92% attendance equals about 13 school days lost per year." and the initiative will, "help the student recognize attendance is an important aspect of school and later in the workplace." She also said that they want to offer "layers of support" to students and their families and cited several cases where intervention by the school and community member support team kept children in school. In one case this meant putting shoes and clothes on one family's children because they had nothing to wear. She went on to say that their goal is to not issue citations but admitted that in some cases it will come down to that.
Citation, however, according to State Law is determined by the issuing officer and there is a current trend all across the nation to cite parents for the truancy of their children. Local residents are divided with some feeling that parents need to get a "better grasp" on their kids, while others think that it won't do any good and that it is a way to generate more state revenue. And that is exactly where the money from the citations goes. According to the Oregon revised Statutes, "All fines and court costs recovered from compulsory school attendance violations shall be paid to the clerk of the court involved. After deductions of court costs provided by law for the proceeding, the clerk shall pay the remainder of the money to the State Treasurer to be deposited in the Criminal Fine and Assessment Account in the General Fund."
All things aside, students see the issue differently. "It's not the parent's fault. It's the kids fault." one of a group of three North Middle school girls said in regards to parents possibly getting fines for their children's truancy. The 3 girls were all sitting down at a local cafe on a school day. Asked if they ever ditch school or skip classes they all said yes. One offered, "If there were better teachers who actually taught and not wasted your time by doing things other than school work I'd stay in class." One even suggested that they should have a student survey on their teachers' performances. They all said that they felt open campuses, like that of Grants Pass high school, tend to make it easy to ditch class. When asked what would get them to stay in school, and individual classes, they offered things from religious freedom to more advanced classes that, "actually taught me something." But they all agreed that if there were more substance in their classes, school wouldn't feel like a "waste of time."
In the end, citation opens up the possibility of more children falling into the state-run Child and Family Services as parents who fight, can't pay, or ignore the violations can be found guilty of other crimes.
There are companies out there like Character Development Systems, LLC who have proven methods of teaching students, "in a systematic class process designed to enhance social, moral, and behavioral growth in a progressive fashion." Character Development Systems offers alternative methods to that of citing parents. They believe that it all starts with the student.
Grants Pass School District
Facts and Sources:
Exemptions from Compulsory School Attendance:
In the following cases, students shall not be required to attend public schools full-time:
1. Students being taught in a private or parochial school in courses of study usually taught in grades 1-12 in the public schools and in attendance for a period equivalent to that required of students attending public schools;
2. Students proving to the Board’s satisfaction that they have acquired the courses of study taught in grades 1-12 in the public schools;
3. Students being taught by a private teacher the courses of study usually taught in grades 1-12 in the public school for a period equivalent to that required of students attending public schools;
4. Students being educated in the home by a parent;
5. Students excluded from attendance as provided by law;
6. An exemption may be granted to the parent of any student 16 or 17 years of age who is lawfully employed full-time, lawfully employed part-time and enrolled in school, a community college or alternative education program as defined in ORS 336.615.
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When asked what would get them to stay in school, and individual classes, they offered things from religious freedom to more advanced classes that, "actually taught me something." But they all agreed that if there were more substance in their classes, school wouldn't feel like a "waste of time."