The Ada City Schools Truancy Program is designed to encourage parents to recommit to having their students in school on time each day. It is not a program set up to punish parents, according to Superintendent Pat Harrison.
“Under Oklahoma’s current rules of high-stakes testing, it’s critical that students be in school. If students aren’t in school, they can’t pass the state’s mandated testing. Quite simply, if students can’t pass the tests, they cannot earn a high school diploma; we need our kids in school. A big thanks goes out to Judge Landrith and the district attorney’s office for their assistance,” Harrison said.
Ada Junior High Attendance Secretary Pat Correll added, “We are trying to get their attention on the importance of having their students in class and on time, but when all avenues are exhausted the final step will be to turn the matter over to the district attorney’s office and parents will be subpoenaed to appear in front of Judge Landrith, who has volunteered his time to this project.”
Correll said a letter will generally go out from the student’s school and the parents are informed that their student Continued from page one
has excess absences and they need to contact the school to discuss this matter.
“Hopefully the parent will call and we can discuss how this problem can be corrected. If we do not have a response or if we have talked to the parents and the students continue to miss school they will get a letter from District Attorney John Hubbard and a date will be set for them to appear,” she said.
It will be the responsibility of school officials to first identify a truancy problem. Teachers, counselors and attendance secretaries, as well as principals and administrators should all be familiar with their school attendance policies. Once a truancy problem has been identified, the school should contact the student’s parents and it does not have to be face-to-face contact.
Truancy problems should be identified as early as possible and should be referred to the DA’s Office as soon as it is determined the school cannot resolve the problem. It is preferred that school officials not wait until the student has missed so much school they will have to repeat that grade. It is also very difficult to address a truancy problem if parents are not notified until a few days or weeks before the end of the semester or school year. The sooner the matter is referred to the DA’s Office, the more likely it will be that school officials can make a difference.
The school’s letter reads as follows:
Parent/Guardian of: (student name, address)
October 3, 2011
Re: (student name)
Our office has noticed your child (student name) has had an excessive number of absences from school, possibly in violation of state law. Title 70 of the Oklahoma Statutes, section 10-105 provides:
It shall be unlawful for a parent, guardian or other person having custody of a child who is over the age of five (5) years, and under the age of eighteen (18) years, to neglect or refuse to cause or compel such child to attend and comply with the roles of some public, private or other school, unless other means of education are provided for the full term the schools of the district are in session or child is excused as provided for in this section.
Before determining whether or not misdemeanor charges against you are appropriate we would very much like to discuss the matter with you to see if the problem can be otherwise resolved.
While you certainly have the right to refuse to discuss the matter with us, that leaves us in a position of sending your child’s attendance information to the Juvenile Services and the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution without any input from you.
Please understand we are not looking for the Pontotoc County District Attorney to prosecute, we are merely trying to ensure that your children are getting an education, whether that be through a public school or through home schooling. A significant amount of juvenile crime is a result of children either not attending or dropping out of school.
To discuss this matter, please contact me at 310-7381 within (5) five days of receipt of this letter. If I do not hear from you, I will assume you have no desire to help find an agreeable solution to this problem.
Ronny Johns, Assistant Principal, Ada Junior High School
Bryan Harwell, Principal
The DA’s letter to the parent is the next step:
You have received a letter from your student’s school notifying you of your student’s attendance problems. This letter is intended to inform you that you are responsible for compelling your child to attend school.
School officials are required to maintain attendance records and report to the District Attorney when a student has excessive unexcused absences. In Oklahoma, parents become criminally liable when their student has excessive unexcused absences. The crime is a misdemeanor and the penalty is up to five days in the county jail and/or a $50 fine for each unexcused absence after you receive this warning. The penalty increases once you have received a truancy conviction.
If your child continues to have unexcused absence after you have received the school’s notice letter, the District Attorney’s office wiIl file a criminal case against each parent responsible for their child’s attendance. If your student is over age 15 1/2, the school wiIl notify DPS to have your student’s driver license or permit revoked.
We urge you to contact your child’s school as soon as possible and resolve your child’s attendance problems. The school maintains the attendance records and any issues regarding attendance should be directed toward your student’s school.
The District Attorney’s office has become involved because your child’s attendance is essential to your child’s education and future.
John W. Hubbard
Assistant District Attorney