With the start of a new school year just over a week away, the Bossier/Webster Parish Truancy Center is preparing to crackdown on students with excessive unexcused absences and tardies.
Richey Jackson, Director of the Bossier/Webster Parish Truancy Center, said his staff is taking a serious approach to lowering the number of repeat offenders in Bossier and Webster schools. Middle or high school students who fail to maintain the legal amount of excused absences and tardies will now subject their parent or legal guardian to a harsher consequence.
The procedure has changed when handling excessive student absences and the truancy office is now stepping in sooner than before. Jackson said his office will now be issuing hearing notices for middle and high school students who have three unexcused absences or tardies.
Once in the hearing, Jackson said he has the authority to sit in with the truancy officer, student and legal guardian and, if necessary, write the legal guardian a ticket for improper parental supervision of a minor.
“If I’m not convinced that they have done everything in their power to keep their child in school, then I have been given the right by the sheriff’s office to write them a ticket,” Jackson said.
The resulting penalty could entail a $250 fine, 30 days in jail or a suspended sentence with supervised probation through the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office and
“They will be ordered from the bench in court that their child can not miss another day of school without a valid excuse and must follow all school rules,” he added.
If the penalty is not followed, Jackson said the parent or legal guardian will be held in contempt of court and could, in fact, face the full penalty.
“We’ve never put anyone in [jail] for 30 days and it’s not our intention to put anyone in jail,” Jackson added. “However, education is so important to a child, our state and this country that we are now probably the toughest in the state of Louisiana and even the country. We will take this very seriously because it greatly affects our community.”
The 2012-2013 school year in Bossier Parish had 17,117 total written referrals (324 in K-5 and 16,793 in 6-12), 1,151 total hearings, 53 teen court appearances and 208 court appearances. When compared to the 2011-2012 school year, there’s an increase of more than 2,000 in written referrals alone.
Although the statistics show figures that reach well over a thousand, Jackson clarified that the numbers are a little deceiving because they do include repeat offenders.
“We’re monitoring some of the same kids year in and year out,” he said. “We’ve made a concentrated effort to reduce that amount and we’re going to be even more on point with that this year.”
An absence is considered to be excused if it meets certain criteria – a valid doctor’s excuse presented to the child’s school within five days of their absence, death in the immediate family or an extenuating circumstance cleared by school officials in the central office.
The truancy office has prepared probation letters to send out before the 2013-2014 school year officially kicks off with a stern reminder that repeat offenders are being monitored closely. Jackson said he wants parents and students to step up and make a change that will better the community as a whole.
“We want them to know we’re watching,” Jackson said. “Let’s start out on the right foot this year. Let’s get it together this year so we don’t go back to where we were last year.”