Throwing Kids in Jail for Skipping School Isn't Helping Anyone

Rant 53

Kid in JailSchools all over the country are now seeking restitution from students who are missing too much school. The punishment? Students and their parents are either being fined or forced to spend time in jail, resulting in, you guessed it, even more school being missed.

Oh the irony.

Sure, there should be consequences for too many absences. But children who miss school for legitimate reasons, like chronic illnesses, appointments, etc., should not be punished. Truancy rules should keep those who would try to outsmart the system (habitual ditchers or parents who don’t enforce the rules) to stay on the straight and narrow. By making the parents aware that there are consequences for not parenting their children, the school is actually acting as an advocate for the child.

More from The Stir: Kids Put in Solitary Confinement in Schools & Parents Have No Idea

And what about those parents who do everything right, and somewhere between leaving the house and the front door of the school, the kid makes a detour? They shouldn't be jailed for their deviant child. It’s not right to punish a parent because her child sneaks out of school. The wrong person is being punished.

Then there are the students who have chronic illnesses or extenuating circumstances, those need to be taken into consideration. If a child is so anxiety stricken that they can’t leave the house and they need to see a therapist once a week, how is it helpful to fine the student or the parents for trying to help their child? What if the child is ill with cancer or some other ongoing disease that they are too weak to attend school? In these cases, the nature of the absence needs to be taken into account.

No matter how you look at it, fining students and their parents and jail time for absences seems extreme and, in most cases, not beneficial to anyone involved. I thought the purpose of these rules was to help students do better in school by curtailing absences, but really, I think it is too flawed to benefit anyone.

Do you think this truancy system is going to help students miss less school and increase test scores? Or are we going to end up wrongfully punishing parents and students alike?

Image via Schmich/Flickr

discipline, news, school


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JiggyOz JiggyOz

Completely agree!  And how is it legal?

PonyC... PonyChaser

Where are the parents of cancer or illness-ridden children being thrown in jail? Where are all of these 'anxiety stricken' children who can't leave the house to go to school, but can leave the house once a week to go to a therapist?

As I have no supporting evidence to refer to on this topic, I have no idea what parents are being thrown in jail, and if they are, for what.

But I do believe that it is ultimately the parent's responsibility, as long as they are paying all of the other bills for their children (this includes seniors in HS), to ensure that they are where they are supposed to be, and to ensure they fulfill their responsibilities.

As much as I hate the concept  and wish it would change, the schools lose money every time a student doesn't report to school. When a kid is chronically absent, they lose the money for that child. They cannot work a budget with money that is constantly disappearing.

So, yes, the parents should face some sort of discipline if their kid is regularly ditching. Because more often than not, the parents bear responsibility - through not teaching their kid to stand up to their own responsibilities.

nonmember avatar Mary

For heaven's sake, no one is throwing the parents of ill children in jail on truancy charges. I am a school social worker dealing almost exclusively with truancy, and the truancy law is not even concerned with sick kids. When there are doctor's notes excusing absences, the child wouldn't even be considered truant. I wish a couple of parents here would be thrown in jail for truancy. They're the ones who refuse to enroll their children in school, refuse to force their kids to get up and get going every day. It wouldn't take many incarcerations for this offense for other parents in the area to wake up and take notice.

kelti... kelticmom

My.coworker just went through this. Her fifteen year old son had ten unexcused absences last year, so he had to go before the judge and was ordered to six months probation and 64 hours of community service. For missing school. His father is in the middle if kidney failure, his body is rejecting the new kidney, his mom and dad are getting divorced, there were many mornings last year that she couldn't get him out of bed bc he was depressed and lashing out. Did the school care? Hell no. Now this sweet boy who is going through a kid's worst nightmare with his father, is being treated like a criminal. It's despicable. And furthermore, how the hell does the government have the right to tell me that I have to send my child to school for x number of days? I pay taxes do I not? He's my child. I realize there are some parents who would never send their kids to school if it wasn't the law, and we don't want undereducated kids that can't support themselves, but still, the fact that the government can so easily but it's head into my family affairs, it worries me. Combined with all the stories of police being brought in to arrest/handcuff/pepperspray/taze kids in school bc the teachers are afraid to discipline and apparently calling the parent first to come get their kid is out of the question. This is why I shall be homeschooling and or private schooling my child.

Miche... Michelephant

Kids with illnesses aren't being punished for missing school. The school arranges tutoring and take home work so that the child doesn't fall to far behind. Same thing happens with kids on house arrest for crimes.

But for regular truancy parents should definitely be held responsible. If a child is ditching the school bus every morning the parent is notified. At that point parents cab file police reports to access state programs to get their kids discipline.

Parents have more control over the situation than they think. And it's their responsibility to learn about resources in their area.

Mary Cimino

My BFF's little sister went through a phase of not wanting to go to school by refusing to get out of bed. After missing a week I offered my services, her mom told me do what I had to do (She had to be at work at 5am and was the only one working before you ask.) I came to her house around the time she had to get up and I yelled once in the room for her to get up, after ten minutes she refused and told me to go f*ck myself. I go in there quietly and literally pull her out of the bed using her blankets and told her if she got back in that bed I would keep doing it. After forcing her to get dressed I took her to school myself and took her to the office and made sure that they knew she was there.

She never tried skipping school after I did that, and if she threatened to do so once in a while she would threaten that I would come over.

Yeah it was harsh but it got her to school everyday, the next year she had perfect attendance.


nonmember avatar Txlisa

It does all come down to money. That is all. I was called to court (Justice of the Peace) because my daughter had a rough year with illnesses in 5th grade. She missed 11 days in a 6 month period (They are allowed 18 day a school year per school policy). It was at the end of the year and she had just received an award the following week for one of the top outstanding students of the year (she had a 97 average). The JP saw she was an excellent student that was in the gifted program and never once had any behavior referrals. She looked at the school truant officer like she was nuts and sent us on our way. The only thing that still upsets me is that it is on her permanent school record.

nonmember avatar me

Mary you are awesome for doing what you did for your friend. That is terrible that the schools care more about money than the kids in some cases. That has become very clear to me from what I have read here.

teal.... teal.blaze

It's these laws that actually get my little sister to school. Truancy charges were files against my dad and stepmom, but my dad explained that he is gone by 4 am every day, so they got a second chance.....the sad thing is that if my grandparents don't hear from my stepmom by a certain time, they have to go get my sister up for school to keep my dad out of jail..

Sasha Farley

one year my daughter had stomach problems alot ,eventually i took her to the doctor but she continued to have problems ,but the problem is we have to take them to the doctor for every little time they are out sick even though some cant afford that,just so we have a note for school, my daughter missed so much that year she was truant but i told them i did what i could for her and i will not make her go to school if she doesnt feel well,wth,when i went in to pick her up one day for an appointment they acted like i was horrible parent and they were not going to let me have her?!!!! big brother is trying to tell us how to raise our kids and some of the time it doesnt work . i understand about some kids just skipping and parents not caring but for those of us who really try it is very frustrating

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