15 Nov Should the government decriminalize school truancy?
Should the government decriminalize school truancy?
A new law was passed by the Texas Legislature on Sept 1, 2015, decriminalizing truancy, turning it from a Class C misdemeanor to a civil fine. The criminal records of all truants were expunged under the law, and students can no longer be sent to prison for too many unexcused absences.
For the first offense, parents will now be fined $100, for the second $200, for the third $300, for the fourth $400 and for the fifth $500 or more for what is still considered a criminal offense.
Let’s have a quick glance at the possible pros and cons of decriminalizing school truancy
Pro: Law holds everyone accountable – schools, students, parents and community
According to this law, not only the schools will be held responsible, but the students, parents, and community as well.
The law puts more pressure on the school districts to ensure students are in class and requires them to adopt disciplinary measures such as frequent meetings with students and their families. Students can still be asked to appear before the court. However, their cases are taken up after ten or more uninformed absences in a six-month period. They can no longer be asked to pay a fine but can be asked to pay a $50 court fee.
VISD already has truancy prevention measures in place to get to the root of why students are absent – which is usually a multitude of problems ranging from transportation and safety to social, academic, and home issues, said Becca Garcia, Victoria Independent School District truancy officer.
Parents are now expected to meet with school administrators to help form a plan of action to improve regularity, which will help them maintain discipline and stick with it.
Decriminalizing truancy will help school districts continue practices already in place and keep the student out of court proceedings,” Garcia said.
“Going to court is always the last resort,” Garcia said.
Con: Students may think the idea of skipping school is OK
Decriminalizing truancy may also send a wrong message to students, and they may think skipping school is acceptable, officials said.
Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 John Miller said he reviewed about 750 cases from January through April from the last school year. He admitted he was concerned some students can’t be held accountable without the repercussion of having a criminal record or a fine.
Miller said when he fined students, they were more likely to successfully complete their probation or community service because they wanted to avoid the financial impact, Miller said.
Everyone wants quality education for their children, and therefore discipline plays an important role in creating fine students who would turn out to be highly successful professionals. However, one may argue that severe forms of punishment don’t necessarily bring out the best results.