New ordinance to help track truants
With the Board of Supervisors approving a resolution this week to control truancy in the county, law enforcement agencies will now be able to take legal action against any student who is found loitering in the community when he or she should be in class.
“We have a significant number of students and parents who feel they don’t need to be in school every day,” said Maggie Deetz, superintendent of the Nevada Joint Union High School District. “That’s not right. It’s also illegal.
“In passing the ordinance, the Board of Supervisors has created a close partnership between the community and the schools. The message becomes clear that the entire community (should) not just respect the law but also education.”
The law defines a truant as somebody who has three days or periods of unexcused absence in a scholastic year, Deetz said. She also explained the procedure that schools follow to deal with a truant.
The school first notifies the parents about the truancy. After two letters, if the problem continues, they are called for a meeting. If that does not deter the truant, the matter is referred to the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Office.
The superintendent, Terry McAteer, who’s also the School Attendance Review Board (SARB) officer, then has a SARB meeting involving the parents, the student and a representative from the school. He has legal options.
“On the high school level, I know, he can put them (the truants) on contract to attend school, and if they break that there are legal consequences, like confiscation of driver’s license. I think it also includes fining the parents,” Deetz said. “But we (the schools) also ask the police to help us with the problem. And the reason why we support the ordinance is because it has immediate consequences. The police stop them and write a ticket. And they may immediately bring them back to school.”
The ordinance was intended for officers to use when they see apparent school-aged children in the community during school hours, according to Rob Davenport, school resource officer assigned to Nevada Union High School by the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.
“Truancy has been there,” he said. “And we are just looking for a new tool to work with the select few that just don’t get it.”
The ordinance was in effect in Grass Valley prior to the supervisors approving the resolution Tuesday. It will now be applicable across the county.
“It might be useful in some cases,” said Roger Steel, superintendent of the Nevada City School District. “It’s just two groups working together to ensure that the kids come to school.”
To contact staff writer Soumitro Sen, e-mail soumitros @theunion.com or call 477-4229.
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