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Should Students Be Arrested for Skipping School?

Posted by Elisabeth Wilkins

Parents can get in big trouble when their kids skip school, sometimes even facing fines and jail time themselves.  Recently in Florida, a law was passed that states that parents can go to jail for up to two months when their children (age 16 and under) skip school repeatedly, missing more than 15 days in one three-month period.

Now in Kentucky, lawmakers have decided to turn the tables: In the town of Covington, minor students can be arrested on misdemeanor charges for playing hooky — and if their parents are complicit, they can be taken in along with their kids.

The law was enacted on January 2, and police have been given instructions about school dismissal times and what procedures they should follow. Officers have an option of giving kids a warning, taking them home, or booking them if the child is suspended or has been expelled, and the parents can’t be reached. (Children who homeschool can carry a note from parents explaining their situation when they’re out during school hours so they don’t get in trouble with police.)

It seems like this is a case of “desperate times call for desperate measures” in this school district. Last year, there were 13,500 unexcused absences amongst a population of 4,000 kids who range in age from kindergarten to seniors in high school. The school lost about half a million dollars in state funding last year due to poor attendance.

I think that parents have the responsibility to do everything in their power to make sure their child attends school. I also know that many, many families out there are struggling with this issue. Parents write in to Empowering Parents frequently saying, “I’ve tried everything, but my kid won’t go to school — and now I face fines and might have to go to court to defend myself.”

For those parents, this Kentucky law makes a lot of sense. After all, how do you make your 16-year-old get up and go to school when they flat-out refuse?

What do you think? Are parents to blame when their children skip school, or should the kids be held accountable — or does the answer lie somewhere in the middle?


About Elisabeth Wilkins

Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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