The Moffat County School District is attempting to address a serious issue in the schools. The proposal could make both students and their parents liable to the ramifications of logging excessive absences.
In a proposal presented at a recent Interagency meeting, school district representative Archie Neil and School resource Officer Mike Anthony proposed a way to enforce the requirements of the Compulsory School Attendance Law.
Some students are missing up to 50-60 percent of the school year in all levels of education elementary, intermediate, middle, and high school. These students are not considered truant; the absences are excused, and therein lies the problem.
Because the absences being excused, there is no way to put the student, and parents if necessary, under penalty for a student's excessive absences. The goal of the proposed program is to get the student into class more consistently so their education is not sabotaged by large blocks of missed time.
Neil and Anthony outlined a five-step proposal for addressing a child at risk of missing a significant portion of the school year. The first step is to bring the teacher, student, parent, and principal to a conference to discuss the reasons for the seemingly excessive absences. Next, a letter would be sent to the parent or guardian if the absences continue. Then, a meeting with the parent, teachers, principal, counselor, and resource officer will be held to address the student's excessive absences. If the problem continues, a Joint Agency Intervention Meeting will be held; this agency would consist of representatives of all the local agencies needed to address each particular situation, such as social services, the police department, the courts, the school in question, and others as need dictates. Finally, if the excessive absences still have not declined, the courts would step in.
According to Moffat County Court Judge Mary Lynne James, statutes are in place that would allow the courts to impose various penalties on the parent for failing to have their child at school consistently. These penalties could include placing the parent in jail for contempt of court, if the situation became that dire.
If necessary, the process can be done in a short period of time, allowing the school system to bring the courts into play quickly to head off any attempt by parents to simply register the student for home schooling, eliminating the schools' influence. If, at the first meeting, the excessive absences are adequately explained or at any step in the process the absences are reduced, no further action or resources are required.
"Right now, we're just at the discussion level," Neil said. "We are trying to work out a system that will comply with the law, and get these kids into school."