TUPELO – School is in session, but school-age children still can be found out and about during school hours.
A woman in Haven Acres, who did not want her named used, said her neighbor’s teenage son can be seen sitting on the porch as early as 11 a.m. some days.
“I watch the bus leave in the morning and he doesn’t get on it sometimes,” said the woman. “He is in middle school, so I know he should be getting on the bus. His mother goes to work before the bus runs, so she may not know he’s not going every day.”
Even though parents may be unaware their children aren’t in school, that parent is still responsible for their attendance.
“Parents have to make sure their children are in school,” said Diana Ezell, assistant superintendent for Tupelo Public Schools. “Students can’t learn if they’re not there and we are very protective of the instructional time of our students. So if parents don’t do their part and make sure students are in school then they have to be ready for the consequences.”
According the Pete Smith, spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Education, parents of habitual truant students can face up to a $1,000 fine.
Smith said the state takes school attendance very seriously because of the link between truancy and the high school dropout rate. After 12 unexcused absences, the student is considered a habitual truant.
Even though it’s ultimately up to the parents to make sure children are in school, Ezell said the school system lets parents know when a day is missed.
“If a student misses a day, we call home,” said Ezell. “We want to make sure we know why students didn’t get on the bus. If the child is sick, we want to know. We try to make sure the parents know what’s going on before it gets too far and has to be reported to the school attendance officer.”
After five unexcused absences, a school attendance officer will contact the parent.
Police don’t deal with truancy, but there is a daytime curfew when school is in session until 2 p.m. Until then, school-age children can’t be in the public without a parent.
If a child breaks the daytime curfew, police have the option to contact the parent, to pick the child up or write the child a citation that the parent is responsible for.
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal