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Skipping school can be costly for students, parents


December 10, 2008
Skipping school is a time-honored tradition. At many high schools, students about to graduate even participate in an unauthorized Senior Skip Day. However, skipping school may not only result in the student being disciplined, it could land parents in jail.

Indiana law mandates that students up to age 16 must go to school, and if they don't, there will be consequences.

At Crawford County High School, Principal Greg Moe said the school's policy is to send letters to parents of truant students, not to threaten them, but to make them aware that their son or daughter has been missing school and that it is the parent's responsibility to make sure they attend. Letters are sent via the Prosecutor's Office after numerous absences.

CCHS students are allowed to miss eight days per semester (with exceptions made for homebound students with physical ailments), and parents are supposed to notify the school by 9 a.m. if their child is going to be absent. Also, students are to present documentation on the day they return to school. If parents don't call the school and documentation isn't provided, the absence is unexcused, Moe said.

"It's sort of two-fold," Dr. Mark Eastridge, superintendent of the Crawford County Community School Corp., said. "As a school system, we have to convey (to parents) the message that what we do here on a daily basis is important to (their) child," while also explaining to them that there are consequences for missing school on a regular basis.

Eastridge said sending the letters to parents of truant students is not ideal, but is an option the corporation needs.

"We don't want to do that," he said. "In some instances, you have to pursue" the circumstances for the absences and act accordingly, he said. For example, there is a difference between a parent knowingly allowing a student to miss school and a child simply defying the parent, Eastridge explained.

Moe said school policy is to send the first letter to a parent or guardian after three absences. A second letter is sent to the parent or guardian after five missed days, and after eight absences, the student and parent must appear before the CCHS Attendance Committee at the Crawford County Judicial Complex, Moe said, adding that, fortunately, that hasn't been a problem at CCHS.

"We really don't have any problems in this school with attendance issues," he said.

The Attendance Committee can take several actions, including but not limited to: a loss of riding or driving privileges to school, requiring the student to take the school bus; losing their driver's license; referral to the Crawford County Juvenile Probation Department; failure of missed classes; revocation of a work permit; and expulsion for the semester.

Normally, Assistant Principal Amy Belcher handles such discipline issues, but Mike Brown has been filling in this fall while Belcher is on maternity leave. The only major issue he has ran into this year was parents wanting to take their students home once morning ISTEP testing was complete, but even that wasn't much of a problem as school officials indicated the absences would be unexcused.

Still, Moe, who is in his first year as principal at CCHS, held a meeting with the county prosecutor, state and county law enforcement officers and school officials earlier this year just to make sure everybody is on the same page regarding what Indiana law says about truancy.

"Unfortunately, we only talk about a few (unfortunate instances) because 95 percent of our parents make sure their kids are in school each and every day," he said.

However, Brown added, "If you send something out, then everybody knows it."

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