By Judge Steve Walker
Over the past five months we have addressed all aspects of the various dockets that Justice of the Peace Court covers as far as its jurisdiction.
Months ago we pointed out that the number one docket in a Justice of the Peace Court is the ever growing problem of truancy. The student drop out rate continues to skyrocket and will continue to escalate especially due to the major cuts in education by the 82nd legislature.
With less support staff on campuses and a reduced number of teachers working in the classroom, the class sizes will dramatically increase, special needs students will be mainstreamed into the classrooms, and teachers will face many more challenges and obstacles in motivating students to show up for class.
In a past column it was pointed out that 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.
It was also noted that there are limited alternatives to attending a public school to include home schooling, private school, and obtaining a GED.
The encouraging news is that for those students who are cited by the four school districts that our precinct covers, we have remedies at our disposal to encourage and court order those truant offenders back to the classroom. The newest tool to encourage students back in the classroom is mandated tutoring in lieu of community service which was covered in this column two weeks ago.
Precinct 2’s jurisdiction over school districts include: Independent School Districts (ISD) from Northside, Northeast, San Antonio, Edgewood, Southwest Prep, Medina Valley, Premier High School and some Charter Schools as well.
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. That is the current law. Once the student has begun the school year he/she must finish that school year no matter his/her age.
Although pre-K is not required, if the parent enrolls their child into the program, the student is bound to attend once enrolled.
The final goal of the Justice of the Peace Court is to encourage or court order the students to complete their education and either walk the stage with a high school diploma or obtain the GED. If they refuse to cooperate and are show/caused and not 17 years old, the consequences may include the student being sent to juvenile detention in handcuffs. That is where Pct 2’s jurisdiction ends and the probation officer’s jurisdiction begins.
Lastly as always, if you are due in court, 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.