Parents can be charged for child's absences

Posted: Thursday, December 30, 2010

KOTZEBUE - Teachers and school administrators in northwest Alaska have warned the parents of frequently truant children that they can be charged with a misdemeanor if the students continue to miss class.

Northwest Arctic Borough School District Superintendent Norman Eck said the district is trying to lift its sagging attendance numbers, KOTZ-AM reported.

"We were very worried about certain students not attending very often," Eck said.

The district has about 88 percent average attendance. Eck said a successful school usually has at least 95 percent attendance.

The misdemeanor charge is contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and is considered a final step.

Before the parents can be charged, they have to go through several steps. Parents of children who miss eight days are required to speak with the school principal. If a child misses 20 days, the parents are given a civil charge, akin to a traffic ticket.

Continued absences require the parents to meet with the state Office of Children's Services. After that meeting and more absences, the parents can be charged criminally.

The school district grants excused absences for seasonal subsistence activities.

In rural Alaska - in regions such as Unalakleet, Kotzebue and Bethel - districts are turning to the truancy law as a way to get kids back in classrooms. At first, some schools officials worried they wouldn't have support from local school boards. The feeling was that troopers and courts are too busy with felony crimes.

Things are beginning to change this year, said Kotzebue attendance counselor Michelle Woods, with troopers issuing truancy citations under the blessing of the district attorney's office.

"This is not to get parents into the courthouse," said Sgt. Duane Stone, a supervisor for the state trooper post in Kotzebue. "It's to get kids back into classrooms."

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