Ask the Judge: Truancy Show/Cause
By Judge Steve Walker
Over the past three months in this column we have offered some insights into various aspects of the jurisdiction of the Justice of the Peace Court.
To date we have addressed some aspects of truancy, handling disorderly students, how to take care of traffic tickets and keep them off your driving record, the procedure for appealing evictions and small claims, familiarizing oneself on legal terms, pros and cons of hiring an attorney and how to conduct yourself in the court to name a few.
This column will deal once again with the seriousness of truancy and its impact on the student. Of all the infractions or offenses that are filed in the Justice of the Peace, truancy tops all other offenses in priority.
With four separate dockets and two Judges in Pct. 2 dealing with the never ending truancy from four school districts, the long term ramifications are staggering.
In the initial encounter with a student cited for skipping school (unexcused absences) and tardy to class, the school district attendance officer cites the number of full days the student failed to attend and the number of tardies incurred during the school year.
Students who are absent due to legitimate medical reasons must turn in a doctor’s note within two or three days (varies from District to District) after the absence. If they do, no cases will be filed against them.
On the students initial arraignment once the attendance officer makes his/her case against the student & parent, punishment is then determined due to the severity of the offense.
The student is given a specified probationary period, assessed a dollar amount fine, court costs, possible counseling such as goal setting, decision making, anger management, community service, possibility of prevention of driver’s license or revocation of driver’s license, mandatory sign in sheet at school, daily attendance sheet, credit retrieval, Saturday School and more.
If the student fails to comply with what was mandated, he/she is returned court to show why he/she should not be remanded to juvenile detention for refusing to do what the Judge instructed.
If the student is 17 years old he/she will not be remanded to juvenile detention. Their case is revoked and they must pay all fines owed to the court.
Only those students who are 16 or younger are sent to juvenile detention where they are assigned a probation officer and released to their parents. The student will report for a designated time to the probation officer who will be in charge of their punishment till they are released from the probation officer’s custody.
The goal of the court is to ensure students attend school till they are 18, walk the stage at commencement, or court order a GED for the student at the request of the student, parent or supervising school district.
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.