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Kids Playing Hooky? Parents Could End Up In Truancy Court

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The following was released today, Thursday, by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office:

This fall, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, in partnership with the Contra Costa Superior Court and local school districts, will launch its first Parent Truancy Calendar.  The purpose of this calendar is to combat chronic absenteeism among elementary and middle school students.

High rates of truancy, such as those in California, have a devastating social, economic and public safety impact.  Children who do not attend school regularly at an early age fail to develop fundamental reading and math skills.  These students are more likely to struggle academically and often drop out entirely.

Preliminary data from a California study found that children who were chronically absent in kindergarten and 1st grade were far less likely to read proficiently at the end of 3rd grade.  Without successful completion of a high school education, these children are more likely to be unemployed and at risk of becoming involved in crime, both as victims and as offenders.

Truancy has been identified as a likely precursor to serious nonviolent and violent offenses among youth.  In Contra Costa County, police have reported that 60 percent of juvenile crime occurs between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays, when children should have been in school.

School districts lose an estimated $1.4 billion per year by failing to get students to school because school funding is based on student attendance rates. The cost to the state is far greater. Factoring in the costs of incarceration and lost economic productivity and tax revenues, dropouts cost California an estimated $46.4 billion per year.

The new court proceedings in Contra Costa will place great emphasis on the parents’ legal obligation to ensure that their young children attend school on a daily basis.  After reviewing the information from the School Attendance Review Board in cases of elementary and middle school chronically absent students, (students who have been absent from school for 10% or more of the school days in one school year), the District Attorney will consider charging parents with an infraction.  Parents will be placed on a 12 month grant of probation, during which they may be required to attend parenting classes, family counseling and/or other  service programs.

This holistic approach will educate parents about the importance of school attendance for their children’s future and will address the barriers that have led to their children’s chronic absenteeism.  The parents’ progress will be monitored, and if after 12 months their children are attending school, the charges will be dismissed.  This collaboration between the schools and the court will allow families to benefit from resources available through both systems.

Questions concerning the program should be addressed to Deputy District Attorney Laura Delehunt at (925) 957-8713.


  1. I think that $46 billion figure that dropouts cost us is cooked (not your cooking, but the government’s). I tried chasing it down. Closest I could get is a report by Kamala Harris that quotes it. Looks like they took the potential tax and income benefits from typical high school graduates, and assumed those numbers should be applied to the number of dropouts to see the difference. If that is the case, I think they have an apples and oranges issue. Just because you “make” someone graduate from high school, they don’t necessarily act like an average high school graduate. I know someone who was forced to go through school and graduate against his will, and when he was an adult on his own, he seemed to relish the idea of minimizing his education. Like revenge in a way. This isn’t the Wizard of OZ and just because you hand someone a diploma, they won’t necessarily become a different person.

  2. Sigh. I fear that the idiots behind this press release don’t understand the difference between correlation and causation. Or, worse, they (correctly) assume that the public doesn’t know or care about the difference as long as the bad logic appears to reinforce their preexisting biases.

    Universal, free and compulsory K-12 schooling seems like motherhood and apple pie, but is relatively new (in last 75 years) concept first pushed by teachers’ unions and groups trying to fight against the influence of the parochial school system. Why in the world do we, in 2015, feel we need to punish parents for their kids’ truancy?

    For younger kids, I can’t imagine a case of habitual absenteeism that wouldn’t ALSO be picked up by broader laws about abuse and neglect. For teenegers, it seems inapproprioate to force kids into high school that don’t want to be there. Let them drop out and give them a voucher to get vocational training if they want it.

  3. Our kids are grown, but I think parents should be held responsible for getting their kids to school through the 12th grade. A bachelors and advanced degree isn’t for everyone, but you should at least graduate from high school. If you don’t, how will you compete later in life? Not having at least a high school diploma will really hinder you, and you’ll probably regret it. Whether you’re willing to admit it or not.

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