[StBernard] St. Bernard cracking down on kids skipping school

Westley Annis Westley at da-parish.com
Mon Nov 30 07:26:41 EST 2009

Armed with a 2008 state law that seeks to more stridently hold parents
responsible for truant children, the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office
<http://www.sbso.org/> has made a renewed push to get kids to attend

The Sheriff's Office made more than 30 arrests last school year and has
investigated several cases this year, authorities said. Since the start of
this school year in August, two parents have been arrested and a handful of
arrest warrants has been issued for parents of children who chronically miss

"We're not looking to arrest parents but we take it seriously,'' Chief
Deputy James Pohlmann said. "It's important that they're in school and not
out on the street.''

Truancy statistics for metro area school districts were not available from
the state Department of Education <http://www.doe.state.la.us/> last week.
However, several local districts have renewed efforts in recent years to
fight truancy.

For instance, in St. John the Baptist Parish
20.xml&coll=1> , a truancy hotline was established for the public to report
kids skipping school. The hotline number is 985.479.2929. And in New
Orleans, a truancy center was opened in the criminal sheriff's building in

A state law enacted in 2008 targets parents and guardians and defines
chronically truant students as those with five or more unexcused absences
during a semester. Parents and guardians can face fines and community
service work if their kids continue missing school.

The law requires parents or guardians to meet with school officials to
discuss the problem, and further unexcused absences by their children can
result in higher fines and jail sentences of up to 30 days.

In St. Bernard, Pohlmann said the school district works with the sheriff's
truancy officers to identify the parents and guardians of habitually truant
students. The parents or guardians are called in to meetings where the law
is explained to them. If absences continue, another meeting is called. After
a third meeting, truancy officers will seek an arrest warrant, Pohlmann

Last year, Pohlmann said, the school district referred 800 truancy
complaints to the Sheriff's Office, and 30 of those resulted in the arrest
of parents or guardians. "In some cases the kids lack supervision,'' he
said. "In some cases the kids are simply defiant.''

St. Bernard Parish schools Superintendent Doris Voitier said most parents,
once told of the law, fix the problem.

"Our intention isn't to punish anyone,'' she said in a news release. Rather,
the district does "what's necessary to get the child in school and become a
productive member of society.''

Pohlmann said the Sheriff's Office offers programs, including counseling
services, for parents and guardians struggling with children who refuse to
attend school.


OMG!!! Will this be considered racist? Or will it be considered "too
harmful" to the kids' self-esteem?


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