Janesville61°

Proposal alters truancy ordinance

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GINA R. HEINE
May 8, 2008
— Students and parents must follow state and local truancy rules, so the school district should, too.

That was the message Evansville Judge Tom Alisankus and two parents stressed to the city’s public safety committee meeting Wednesday night.


Five or six parents who have been in Alisankus’ court in the last couple years for truancy issues told him the school had not notified them of the unexcused absences. Alisankus proposed adding a line from state statutes to the local ordinance to allow school officials to be fined in municipal court for not properly notifying parents of truancy.


Members of the public safety committee agreed to sponsor an ordinance to align the state statutes with the local requirements. The proposal—which school officials in attendance said they supported—likely will have its first reading before the city council next week.


“What I’m asking you to do is help me in the interest of justice here because there’s three parties involved,” Alisankus said.


Students and parents have to follow the truancy law or suffer legal consequences, he said.


“But there’s no mechanism in municipal court to have (school officials) face any consequences if they don’t follow the law just like the students and parents are required to,” he said.


School officials aren’t notifying all parents when their kids are truant, parent Sceone Gard said.


Gard admitted her 18-year-old son has been truant 26 times this year, but the school only notified her three of those time. She should have been notified every time, she said.


School officials present, including the district administrator and two principals, said the school is notifying parents but could not speak to Gard’s specific situation because of privacy issues.


Assistant high school principal Brian Cashore said the school keeps a log of phone calls and written notifications to parents.


District Administrator Heidi Carvin also said the local ordinance should match the state statute in other ways, too, because now the school’s actions for daily truancy are the same as habitual truancy, causing an excessive drain on the system.


Daily truancy is up to four unexcused absences for all or part of a day in one semester, while habitual truancy is five or more unexcused absences for all or part of a day in one semester.


School officials said parents are called when a student is truant—daily or habitual. The proposed change would eliminate the need to consider counseling, special education referrals and other services for daily truants. That would bring the local ordinance in line with the state statute because the local ordinance now requires more actions for daily truancy than the state.


Public safety member Dennis Wessels said he wanted to make sure school officials were doing their job in contacting parents every time.


“Apparently, someone is dropping the ball,” he said, referring to Gard’s case, “and I’d hate to see the kids pay the price.”



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