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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The Battalion May 4, 2024

State Legislature decriminalizes truancy in K-12 schools

Truancy
Provided
Truancy

Starting September 1, a new law will effectively decriminalize truancy in Texas.
House Bill 2398, which will require school districts to create their own means of preventing unexcused absences, aims to lower fines and ease burden on hardship-ridden families.
The current law dictates that any student who has three or more unexcused absences in a four week period, or 10 in a six month period, is liable to be found guilty of a Class C misdemeanor and fined for up to $500 plus court fees. Those fines and sentences can also extend to parents of absent children if they are found liable.
These laws were first implemented in an attempt to keep children in class, but their focus has been on punishment rather than rehabilitation. In some cases children are suspended for missing too much class, and in others they’re ordered by court to drop out and begin pursuing a GED.
Texas Appleseed, a nonprofit organization that works to promote social and economic justice in Texas, published a study in 2015 regarding the effects of truancy on students. In the study, the organization noted that four out of five students sent to court for truancy are economically disadvantaged.
Texas and Wyoming are the only two states that treat truancy as a criminal offense, and Texas is the only state with an established truancy court system. Its creation coincided with the strengthening of truancy laws in 2003. According to the Texas Appleseed study, since then, the volume of cases has grown exponentially with over 115,000 cases in 2013 alone, more than twice the cumulative total of all other 49 states. An estimated $10 million was collected via fines and court costs in 2014.
“Criminalizing unauthorized absences at school unnecessarily jeopardizes the futures of our students…”  Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement to the San Antonio Current. “I signed House Bill 2398 to ensure Texas educators have the tools necessary to prevent truancy, encourage classroom attendance and focus on educating our children to ultimately set our students on a pathway toward success.”
Rick Hill, former College Station ISD principal and current Justice of the Peace in Precinct 3, said while the issue is important, CSISD and Bryan ISD will not be greatly affected.
“This law came about because some schools around the state didn’t put many things in place to keep kids from missing school,” Hill said. “Their first step was to refer them to juvenile courts. But for us, this was not as big an issue.”
Hill said there are many things to be done to keep students in school.
“There’s still going to be lots of things, lots of measures that we can put in place, to help  kids stay in school,” Hill said. “To me, it’s never been about the fine. It’s been about talking to kids and imparting to them the importance of education.”

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