Truancy Sweep

Atlanta parents arrested for student's poor attendance.


School started recently for most counties in Georgia. While many moms were busy packing lunch boxes, two Dekalb County mothers heard deputies knocking on their front doors.

Cheryl McCoy and Danelle Swanson were each placed in handcuffs in separate incidents and charged with educational neglect because both of their children had too many absences from school.

The truancy round up came from a 2009 ordinance, which is now being strictly enforced. Atlanta parents could face a $1,000 fine, up to 60 days in jail, or be required to complete community service when their children skip too much school.

According to The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Atlanta has a troubling truancy problem. Almost 44 percent of high school students missed 10 or more days of school last year, up from 40 percent in 2009-10.

Research shows that students with high attendance are more likely to graduate and earn a diploma. Even poor attendance in Kindergarten can start a child off on the wrong foot. Studies indicate that students who arrived at school academically ready to learn— but then missed 10 percent of their kindergarten and first grade years—scored an average of 60 points below similar students with good attendance on third-grade reading tests.

Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell helped create the new ordinance to help educate parents about the importance of regular attendance and to introduce social programs for families to ensure their children attend school.

Critics say the truancy ordinance is flawed and could cause unneeded stress for already struggling families. Mitchell told the AJC, "Given the crisis we’re facing in terms of truancy, we could haul droves of parents into court,” Mitchell said. “That is not our objective.”

After a student has 10 unexcused absences, both Atlanta and Cobb schools refer cases to the courts, but school counselors and social workers typically get involved after three unexplained absences. The city council tries to work with the court system, the school and the police to first offer social services to parents before imposing any penalties.

In both cases where the mothers were arrested, each had failed to show up in court for educational neglect charges. Swanson failed to show up after her child missed 16 days of kindergarten and McCoy skipped court after her teenager missed 37 days of middle school.

Do you think that parents should be arrested for their child's poor school attendance? Do you think that Atlanta's truancy ordinance will make a difference in the lives of at-risk students? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Priscilla Zenteno Lumbra August 17, 2012 at 02:54 AM
I'd send my kids to school for coupons. :) In all seriousness, the punishment is harsh because it's the easiest way to prove a point. They want the kids to go to school to stop the cycle of crime and poverty, but they can't or won't take the time to work with each family to make attendance easier. Education is important.
Rebecca McCarthy August 17, 2012 at 10:09 AM
I would love to get coupons for getting my girls on the bus every day....thanks for the idea.
Becky August 17, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Until the child is 18 years old, the PARENTS are responsible to send their child to school. The parents definitely need to be held accountable, especially in elementary. Once a child gets to middle and high school, they need to suffer the consequences as well. I had this very discussion with my son this morning who was complaining he didn't want to go to school today. "Why do I have to go to school?" My reply...because it's your job, just like I get up and go to work every day. You have to instill good "work" habits now so they can become productive members of society one day. These kids that skip school will have horrible attendance records at work and can risk losing a job for poor attendance. I just don't understand parents these day.
Cheryl Miller August 17, 2012 at 04:08 PM
I think the research presented in the article is a bit of a stretch. The absences in kindergarten and 1st grade are not the direct cause of the lower points on the third grade reading test. A lot more goes on in a child's life that can contribute to their ability to perform well on a third grade reading test. But, the absenses are a clear indicator that something is going on at home that is preventing the child from attending school on a regular basis. That makes it more likely that the home environment is troubled and likely not very condusive for the development of good study habits. And THAT might have a more likely impact on the student's test scores. This article does make me wonder... has anyone mentioned this ordinance to the DeKalb County School Board? I believe they wanted to cut 9 days of instruction this year and there is clearly no good excuse for that. They are just one day shy of breaking this truency law and should be ordered to appear before the court to explain themselves, don't you think?
bulldogger August 27, 2012 at 02:45 PM
You know, with our glorious government giving away money to anyone who'll vote democratic, what incentive do they have to do anything, much less make sure their children are in school? IMO, most of these people don't care about their children anyway, they're just a tool to get more money from our glorious government. Stop the giveaway programs and you'll go a long way in improving attendance in our schools; however, this may take a generation or two.


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