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?
- 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.