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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ask the Judge" Column today (Sunday) in La Prensa on Truancy

Ask the Judge: Truancy

The number one docket in a Justice of the Peace Court is the growing problem of truancy. The student drop out rate is skyrocketing and will continue to escalate especially due to the uncertainty of the proposed cuts in education by the legislature.

The truancy rate is due to a number of mitigating factors that include but not exclusive, to bored and unchallenged students, gang participation, family crisis, domestic violence, students forced to work to help support their families, unexpected pregnancies, lack of day care for those teenage girls who have babies, homelessness and students and families who do not value or see the need for education.

Obviously there are limited alternatives to attending a public school to include home schooling, private school, and obtaining a GED.

For those students who are cited by the four school districts that our precinct covers, we have numerous remedies to encourage and court order those truant offenders back to the classroom.

The four school districts that send us student offenders in our jurisdiction are Northside, Northeast, San Antonio, & Edgewood. We also service Southwest Prep, some Charter Schools and Premier High School.

The law dictates that all students who have not reached the age of 18 must attend school on a daily basis until they have earned a high school diploma or obtained a GED. If a student begins the school year and he is 18, he/she must finish the school year despite his/her age. We have some cases of students actually reaching their 19th birthday within their senior year.

Although pre-K is not required, if the parent enrolls their child into the program, the student is bound to attend once enrolled.

We cite parents for contributing to the failure of their children as well and hold them partially responsible for the truancy. We may fine them, mandate them to sit in class with the students during the day, sign them in to class, and sometimes order them to attend family counseling with their children.

The final goal is to encourage or court order the students to complete their education and either walk the stage wit a high school diploma or obtain the GED. If they refuse to cooperate and are show/caused and not 17 years old, they are treated like the disorderly students docket and are sent to juvenile detention. There they are assigned a probation officer who takes over jurisdiction of the student.

Lastly as always, be sure to show up to court on time. It is in everyone’s best interest.

Justice of the Peace, Pct. 2 Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and a former Journalist.

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