Truancy Court Back in Session

By: John Tramontana Email
By: John Tramontana Email

If you miss school you miss out.

"If they're not in the building, they're going nowhere," warned Ingham County Probate Judge Richard Garcia.

For the eighth straight year Truancy Court is back in session -- hoping to discourage Lansing students from cutting class.

"We know kids not in school are more likely to commit crimes," Judge Garcia said. "We know kids who do not graduate from high school will attend jail and go on to prison."

The process is simple. Ten or more unexcused absences sends you to court and the punishments could be severe.

"Some of the consequences could be community service," said district attendance specialist Rose Taphouse. "They could end up spending time at the youth center if there's other issues going on."

And parents can be held accountable too. They could be placed in court-ordered parenting programs. But organizers don't expect too many of those cases.

They say the program has produced dramatic results. Since it took effect in 2001, the court hears an average of 300 cases per year. Seventy-five percent of those students go on to improve attendance and their grades. It's also evident on the streets.

"Since 2002, we have cut the number of juvenile petitions in half in this county," Judge Garcia exclaimed.

For others the problem is more deeply rooted.

"It's the same students having the same issues," said Taphouse. "A lot of them are tied to the economy."

The district plans to target those "at risk" students and their parents through individual meetings within the next few weeks.

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