The Source - April 8, 2014
10:36 am
Tue April 8, 2014

The Source: Truancy Reforms Look To Keep Kids In School, Out Of Court

Credit Flickr user Bill Selak / cc

Thousands of San Antonio kids are ending up in adult courtrooms over "Failure to Attend School" (FTAS) violations. In 2012, a third of all class C misdemeanors filed against minors were FTAS in Texas. The state saw 76,000 cases in courts that year, according to Texas Appleseed

How a school district chooses to deal with truancy varies widely and can affect the rest of a child's life. Several studies have come out showing the earlier a child crosses paths with the justice system, the more likely they are to end up in prison later in life.

FTAS is the most serious way to deal with truancy; including a fine per absence. It can only be issued after a student misses three or more days in four-week period or 10 or more in a six-month period. A similar, lesser charge is the family court's "Child in Need of Supervision," which is in the family code. 

The City of San Antonio and its school districts formed a task force to tackle the problem of truancy. The task force aims standardize how districts deal with the problem while reducing the incidence. 

Northside Independent School District, the fourth-largest school district in the state, began actively intervening instead of issuing citations. Working with the courthouse, they were assigned a case manager who would work with families to find solutions. The district said it led to a dramatic reduction in the number of cases going to court.

What is the best way to deal with truancy? How do we keep kids in school where they belong?

Guests:

  • Brian Woods, superintendent of Northside ISD
  • Rey Saldaña, District 4 councilman and head of city's task force
  • Mary Mergler, staff attorney for Texas Appleseed working on school-to-prison pipeline issues

*This is the second segment in the April 8 edition of The Source, which airs at 3 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM -- audio from this show will be posted by 5:30 p.m.

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