An anti-truancy program run by Houston’s Harris County District Attorney’s Office in four courts relies on early intervention, tough love, and scaring-families-straight techniques, the Houston Chronicle says. After a student has three unexcused absences, the prosecutor sends a letter warning the child and parents that they will face criminal charges and fines up to $500 each if the child has three more unexcused absences.
In two years, more than 15,800 warning letters have gone to parents and children in nine area school districts. If the warning goes unheeded, another is sent telling the student that he or she has been charged with truancy and the parents that they have been charged with contributing to non-attendance at school, both misdemeanors. School officials say anecdotal evidence and limited early statistics indicate that the program is working. Prosecutors can get the attention of kids and parents when school officials can’t, said Juan Lumbreras, a Houston school attendance specialist. In the school year just ended, only 20 percent of students who got warning letters cut school three more times. Some parents said it is unfair of judges to hold parents accountable for making sure wayward, disobedient children don’t skip classes.