Officials work toward a new truancy policy

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A new policy for dealing with truancy cases in Richmond County schools is getting close to implementation.

Juvenile Court Judge Ben Allen, who was assigned to truancy court more than a year ago, says several area officials -- including those from the school system, the state Department of Juvenile Justice and the Health Department -- met last week to work on finalizing the plan.

"We had every major player at the table," the judge said. "Hopefully within the next couple of weeks we'll have a new protocol."

Judge Allen said the new protocol would likely cut down on cases heading to court.

"It doesn't make any sense to bring kids who missed days directly in the court. There needs to be some effort made by different agencies to find out what the real problem is," the judge said, adding that in some cases it could be a health issue or a problem at home.

In past years as many as 1,000 students have been referred to court for truancy in a given school year, according to reports in The Augusta Chronicle. But officials say attendance has improved in recent years.

Judge Allen said there haven't been any cases so far this year because truancy issues typically arise later in the school year, when absences begin to add up. He said officials also have been waiting to see how a new truancy protocol might factor in before making court referrals.

The Georgia General Assembly passed legislation in 2004 requiring every community to develop a truancy protocol committee to address the problem and establish policies.

Those students who had five or more unexcused absences were ordered to appear in Richmond County court.

The cause of the problem would then be addressed and officials would be ordered to work with the student and his or her family.

In November, a subcommittee was assigned to rewrite the protocol. A final document is still in the works but could be completed in the next month. It would then go before the Board of Education for approval, according to board attorney Pete Fletcher.

Already this school year, officials have temporarily adjusted their own truancy plan on how absences are to be excused.

Since Sept. 8, the system has suspended its requirement of a doctor's note for excused absences amid an outbreak of the novel influenza A H1N1 virus. Until Oct. 30, students can use a signed note from a parent or guardian.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3851 or

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WhippingPost 10/06/09 - 04:55 am
The "reason" for most of the

The "reason" for most of the truancies is known. What to do about it to keep the cost to the school system down will be the main question.

avidreader 10/06/09 - 06:06 am
There's a lot of political

There's a lot of political posturing going on. If a truent child does not bring a note to class, then "technically", the student is not allowed to make up missing work. So, here we go! Think about ninth-graders. The child fails the class and the DATA shows a large failure percentage for the teacher. Then comes the "subtle" pressure -- the fear of teetering graduation rates emerges because the child will give up and probably end up dropping out of school. The teacher is always stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place. So the teacher makes sure the child passes, and next year's teacher has to deal with a truant student who has not mastered any skills from the previous year. And the band plays on . . .

Harrisburg Homeowner
Harrisburg Homeowner 10/06/09 - 07:30 am
We need to educate the

We need to educate the sheriff's department just what a truant is. I called one day to report a truant and the dispatcher did not know what a truant was. I had to explain it to her. I was incredulous.

Just Another Day
Just Another Day 10/06/09 - 10:30 am
HarrisburgHomeowner- First of

HarrisburgHomeowner- First of all the Sheriff's Department does not run the 911 dispatch center. The county does. Those dispatchers are county employess not Sheriff department employess. Second, why call the dispatch center for a truant? Why not call the School Board or the School Board Public Safety? Doesn't the Sheriff Department has enough to do without having to track down and apprehend dozens and dozens of truants? Law enforcement DOES NOT have a magic wand to cure all ills. Parenting needs to start at home with mom and dad, not with a badge.

lifelongresidient 10/07/09 - 05:58 pm
no need to develop another

no need to develop another program to "find out" why the students aren't going to school, it's just another waste of time and another way that local agency will attempt to obtain additional funds from the state, local and federal gov'ts. the problem is very simple, you have sorry, trifling parents who are too busy not doing anything productive but hanging out, sitting around and in these thug clubs to raise their children...when you have a sorry parent(s) the net result are sorry children..why not expidite the process and expell them immediately and send them back to their sorry, trifling parent(s) then build bigger prisons!!!!!!!!!

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