The headline was like “Scared Straight” for adults: “Parents arrested over truant kids.” The roundups in the past six weeks–11 arrests in Detroit, four in New Mexico, and 19 in Tennessee–are the most eye-catching aspect of a get-tough approach to school attendance. The goal is to get students back to school, not to put their parents behind bars, school and law enforcers tell the Christian Science Monitor. While some parents have served short jail terms for contributing to their children’s truancy, most are sentenced to perform community service or pay fines if they fail to respond to less-punitive measures.
Truancy-prevention programs that are considered models tend to have one thing in common–collaboration among schools, parents, and law enforcement to address a range of underlying problems. Some communities have been doing this for decades, responding to research that shows truancy is a gateway to dropping out of school and crimes such as drug use, vandalism, and robbery. But in recent years, the federal accountability requirements of No Child Left Behind have pressured more school districts to try to replicate successful methods.