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After a period of unexcused absences, schools are not just going after the students, but also the parents. KSMU’s Adam Hammons has more on how parents can be prosecuted for their child not being at school and how important it is for children to go to class.
School is a huge part of every child’s life. Whether children are home-schooled or go to private or public school, class can take up a major portion of their day. It’s no wonder that schools are stressing the importance of going to class.
Becky Morgan is the attendance coordinator for Springfield Public Schools. She explains why it’s important to attend class even though students can just make up the work.
“Students could take home worksheets that maybe were passed out and done in the classroom, but actually what you’re missing is that teacher presentation that involvement, one-on-one that happens in a classroom. That can’t be replicated any other time. So attending as many days as possible during the school year just enhances that child’s opportunity for learning.”
Morgan says it’s important for children of any age to go to school. She says it establishes a routine and that will help them when they eventually enter the workforce.
To stress the importance of going to class, many schools are alerting local prosecutors after a student has a number of unexplained absences. In some cases, prosecuting attorneys use the state’s compulsory attendance law to go after the parents. Again, Becky Morgan.
“That particular law is interjected and it’s used on a minimal basis, but it is there to deter anyone, any parent in thinking that their child doesn’t need an education.”
In Springfield, the school district contacts the prosecuting attorney after a student has eight unexplained absences in a school year. The prosecutor will review the records and decide if charges should be filed. Jessica Hill is an assistant prosecuting attorney in Greene County.
“Basically the state has to prove that the defendant acted knowingly or purposefully in causing the child to fail to attend school. So there’s different circumstances that you would look at, and it’s a very case-by-case basis like any case we prosecute, but overall you’re looking at (whether) it was the parent’s fault that the child was not attending school.”
Hill says the parent can face charges for a class D misdemeanor, which carries up to a 15 day jail sentence and a $300 fine.
Recently, Cape Girardeau Public Schools sent a case to the county’s prosecuting attorney. Cape Girardeau Public Schools Superintendent Jim Welker says this is a new strategy to keep kids in school.
“If we have students that have missed over 10 days and it’s been a chronic problem, then we do contact the prosecuting attorney’s office and then they make contact with the families at that point.”
Clay Hannah is the executive director of secondary education for Nixa Public Schools. He says Nixa does file cases with the prosecuting attorney a few times every year.
“When we get to that point, over 10 absences per semester, then we send that information to the prosecutor’s office if it’s been the case where the kid has been absent and there appears to be really no good reason why they’ve been absent.”
Both Hannah and Welker say that before they bring it to the prosecuting attorney, the school sends letters to parents to try and get the student to come to school.
There are some exceptions to the Missouri Compulsory Attendance Law. To find out more about the law and those exceptions, go to...
For KSMU News, I’m Adam Hammons.