Georgia won't tolerate truancy - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Georgia won't tolerate truancy

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

The Georgia Supreme Court upheld a law that holds parents accountable for not having their kids in class, and the ruling carries stiff penalties. You can be fined, put on probation, even jailed if your kids miss too much school.

 The court unanimously ruled the state's Mandatory Education Statue is constitutional after a Jackson County mother challenged it. Dougherty County School officials say they're pleased with the court's decision.

Every Georgia Supreme Court justice ruled the state law holding parents accountable if their kids miss too much school is constitutional. Dougherty County School officials say they do have truancy problems with too many of the system's more than 15,000 students.

"The cooperation we have with the district attorney's office is great and it helps and control and contain the problem that is here," said R. D. Harter, Public Information Director, Dougherty Co. Schools. "When we alert them its an automated process. We alert them when a student is absent 10 or 15 days and they send a letter to the parents informing them they have to have their kids in school."

When a student misses too much school, it's considered neglect. The same as if a child is denied food or shelter. He says the current statue that requires young people, ages 6 to 16, to be in school, has been in place for many years, so he's not surprised the court chose to uphold it.

"It's important to schools when you have a lot of the supreme court back up and the law is on the books and in existence. I doubt many school systems, I didn't expect the school systems to go a different way," said Harter.

Chanell Pitts challenged the statue after she was convicted of misdemeanor violations in October of 2012. She was fined and put on probation after her son missed nine days of school.

Harter says the law provides for the fact that children should not be responsible for themselves "A parent has that responsibility by virtue of being the parent and the adult. Adults have to do things to set the example," said Harter.

But understands it can be challenging when many students' basic needs are not being meet. "Like food and clothing and shelter and there are incidences of poverty and they are more focused on that then the importance of being somewhere."

He says overall Dougherty County parents understand the importance of education, and see it as a way to better one's life.

Once a student misses five days of class, parents are sent a letter as required by state law. After that each additional absence is considered a separate offense. Parents who choose to home school their kids must register with the state so the state is sure they are getting an education.

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