Kids Skip School, Parents Go to Jail
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Kids Skip School, Parents Go to Jail

August 1, 2004/The News-Star

Students, and their parents, in Richland Parish that make a chronic habit of missing school have more to worry about than the principal's office or detention.

They have to worry about jail time.

School and parish officials have put an emphasis on attendance and raised the stakes for those who skirt the rules. It brings a new meaning to accountability in schools.

The parish decided to become aggressive with the state law that requires students under 18 to attend school. We commend the commitment to education.

Some people might see it as an extreme, excessive policy. We see it as following the law and lighting a fire under parental involvement.

Students or parents who miss more than 20 days of school can be fined $250, jailed for 30 days or both. That's a clear line in the sand with a truancy problem.

District Attorney Billy Coenen, Richland Superintendent John R. Sartin and Judge James Berry are making a commitment to enforce the truancy laws.

"Parents go to jail if they are not cooperating with the district attorney, and kids go to jail if they're not cooperating with parents,' said Rev. James Smith, truancy officer for Rayville High School.

It should be easy to see the motivation behind the strong stance. It's not about wanting to put more people in jail. It's about making sure students go to school and receive an education.

Each case is different and must be considered on an individual basis, but parental involvement is a vital component of successful education. Parents aren't properly involved if children are routinely missing school.

Some may see it as a scare tactic, but it doesn't matter what you call it as long as it gets parents more involved with the children's education and keeps children in classrooms.

"We want children to attend school,' Berry said. "We don't want to punish anyone, but if a child doesn't attend school, he or she will have a problem in the labor market.'

Education enhances young people's chances to succeed in life. Skipping out on the classroom endangers the path ahead.

Richland Parish is standing up for brighter futures.

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