New Truancy Laws Going into Effect - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

06/01/05

New Truancy Laws Going into Effect

School may be out, but officials from the courts, the police and the schools are coming together to make sure all students are back in next year. New truancy laws are now in effect and this time it's not just the students who will be getting in trouble. Parents could also feel the heat.

Parents will eventually have to come before a judge if the problem is too bad, since it's a problem that affects the whole community.

Judge Tammy Cox Stokes in recorder's court is expecting to deal with some new cases next year: parents of children 13 and younger who have not taking any action when it comes to their children missing school. Campus police will be out looking for those parents, warrants in hand.

"Parents would be arrested on that warrant and a hearing or preliminary hearing would be held within 72 hours," Judge Stokes told us. "If a parent bonds out, seven to ten days later."

And truancy is a problem. On some days, ten percent of Chatham County public school children aren't in school. And police say they are usually up to no good.

"They get in trouble, they do things they shouldn't be doing," said Chief Dan Flynn of the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department. "They're not being truant to go to church."

And then they end up in juvenile court for other reasons. "They come in not through the truancy front door but the delinquency back door," noted Judge Leroy Burke.

And that makes truancy a problem for everyone. So new laws in Chatham County governing how many days each child is allowed to be absent and the procedures for contacting parents are in effect, not necessarily to put people in jail or make them face penalties, but to help make children want to go to school.

"To find out why the child is not in school and find out what can be done to keep the child in school," explained Judge Burke.

Throughout the summer, parents will be educated on the new law, so next year there is a clear understanding of what is expected of both parents and students.

Reported by: Kim Angelastro, kangelastro@wtoc.com

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