Parents React to Truancy Laws That Could Lead to Jail Time

Tameitra Bryant and her children.
Tameitra Bryant and her children.

New, tougher truancy laws have gone into effect in Chatham County, and parents are wondering how this will affect them. WTOC spoke with several at last night's high school graduation ceremony at the Savannah Civic Center.

Their reaction is really a toss-up. On one hand, they say students shouldn't be playing hookey and parents should know where their kids are. On the other hand, they say the older their children get, the harder it is to keep tabs on them.

Tameitra Bryant of Savannah has four kids--15, 12, 9 and 7 years old. "They go to school no problem," she told us.

And she expects each to be part of their own graduation ceremony.

But kids skipping school was the hot topic at last night's graduation. Bryant and her sister, Lynnette Capers, say it's easier to get kids to school when they are young. The older they get, the tougher it is to make them do anything.

"Once you leave home and go to work and think your child has gone to school, you've done your part by making sure they are out of the house and getting on the bus," said Bryant. "At least you think."

"When I was in school, they would call the parents to see why they weren't in school," said Capers. "They don't do it any more."

Acting superintendent George Bowen told us, "If your child isn't in school, we can't do our job."

Truancy is such a big problem in the Savannah-Chatham school district, police and the justice system are stepping in. Starting next school year, they will call parents when kids miss school. And if it happens too many times, parents could end up going to jail.

"Our goal is not to put people in jail," said Judge Leroy Burke. "Our goal is to get kids to school."

"I think it's fair," said Capers. "We should know where our kids are at all times."

She and her sister don't expect any problems with their kids in the future. "If they don't go to school, they won't be in this household," laughed Bryant.

Schools and police won't just spring these tougher truancy laws on parents. They plan on spending the summer educating parents, but in a worst-case scenario, if a child is absent more than five times with no excuse, the child could face juvenile action and the parent would face criminal action.

Reported by: Don Logana,