Skipping school could carry a new punishment for truant students and their parents. The director of Juvenile Services in Smith County is proposing a new truancy program. Under the new measure, parents would also end up suffering the consequences of a child missing school. Smith County commissioners discussed the idea this morning. KLTV 7 News asked parents at Hubbard Middle School what they think about the proposal.
"I think the parents need to be held accountable for what's going on in their child's life. If they have to get out there and pick up trash and be humiliated with the child, I think there would be some changes in the home," said Gay Tyra, whose 13-year-old daughter who attends Hubbard Middle School.
"I think that's appropriate too because the parent is responsible for teaching the child and if they haven't taken time to follow the rules themselves then they should be punished also," said Crystal Jordan, mother of a 12-year-old at Hubbard Middle School.
Right now, students who skip school three days during a three-week period can be fined up to $500 for every day they're absent. Smith County Precinct 4 Commissioner Joann Hampton says the new program would be a better alternative to the fines and it would help the county out. "We want our youth to get education. We want them to go to school. And this is a way to try to deter them from skipping school by using this program, if the J.P.s would approve the program," said Hampton.
In his proposal, Juvenile Services Director Nelson Downing said: "By making parents participate, they might be more inclined to make sure their children attend school. If school attendance goes up, the average daily population increases, as will the funding from the state."
Smith County Justice of the Peace Quincy Beavers holds truancy hearings every other month. He does not think the program will lower the number of students skipping school. "It'll clean the county up but I don't think it's going to be a big impact on truancy," said Judge Beavers.
Because the proposal has not been researched, legally or financially, commissioners say there is a lot to do before it can move forward. Commissioners took no action on the matter today. They asked Smith County Environmental Crimes Detective Danny Brasher to contact J.P.s and find out if they would be interested. Brasher says his department has so much work to do, that every bit of help is welcome.