Parents, students could pay $100 for truancy

Posted: Friday, May 09, 2003

JUNEAU The Juneau Assembly is considering adopting a new law calling for more stringent ways to deal with school truants.

An ordinance to be reviewed Monday would allow school administrators to write tickets and fine students or parents $100 for habitual truancy.

Subsequent truancy would result in a mandatory appearance in after-school court and could lead to higher fines.

Juneau's truancy ordinance, sent to the Assembly by the School District, mirrors similar laws in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Students are required by state law to attend school and truancy infractions can result in a state court appearance, but officials say a local law would be more expedient.

We can take kids to court, but you have to go to state court, the same court that is dealing with felonies,'' Superintendent Peggy Cowen told the Juneau Empire. It can take months.''

The city has yet to define habitual truancy. In state law, a student becomes a habitual truant after five unexcused absences.

Under the proposed ordinance, habitually truant students would have to make an appearance in District Judge Peter Froelich's after-school court, where students cited for underage drinking or tobacco possession are sent.

The court would then have the option of putting students on probation, fining them up to $300 or requiring community work service. The court also could require truant students to attend class regularly and remain in good academic standing with a C average, said Bonnie Lanz, the Juneau School District's truancy tracker.

Truancy is a factor in drop-out rates and low test scores, Lanz said.

The ordinance would allow Lanz and school administrators to write truancy tickets to either students or parents, depending on the circumstances, Cowen said. The ordinance would apply to students between the ages of 7 and 16.

Sometimes parents take a rather relaxed view of learning in the early years. Kids come and go because they think kindergarten and first grade don't matter,'' Cowen said. We know that if you don't get the basics, you will be a struggling or nonresponsive student later on.''

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