As central Florida students went back to school this week, officials are using threats to get them to show up every day–including the possibility of jail time for parents who don’t comply with school-attendance laws, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Truancy is out of control across Central Florida, and school officials are turning to police and the state attorney for more help in convincing parents that their children must be in school. Parents of students with five unexcused absences in a month or 10 in three months may be in line for a serious talk with a law-enforcement officer.
Schools for several years have been required to pursue truants, taking parents to court if necessary. But cases often get bogged down as social-service agencies consider options and students continue to skip. Law-enforcement agencies cite a link between truancy and juvenile crime, drug abuse and teen pregnancy. At Jones High in Orlando, more than a third of the students missed four weeks or more during the 2004-05 school year, one survey showed. A state law that revokes driving privileges of teen truants has been useful in keeping some high-school students in school, but that doesn’t work for younger kids.