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Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Article published Sep 2, 2007
Area schools not tolerating truancy
By Rachel E. Leonard <>
Published: Sunday, September 2, 2007

The teachers are back in the classroom, the football teams have returned
to the field and school administrators are already tracking down student
no-shows in an attempt to prevent truancy from day one of the new school
Spartanburg County School District 7 referred two male students who were
under court orders to attend class to the 7th Circuit Solicitor's Office
during the first week of school, said Jerome Rice, district attendance
and dropout prevention coordinator.
The boys, one from Mary H. Wright Elementary and one from Carver Junior
High, missed at least two days during the first week of school in
violation of a court order issued last year and carried over to this
year directing them not to miss another day.
Habitually truant students can be referred to the solicitor's office and
Family Court in some circumstances after racking up seven or more
unexcused absences. Spartanburg County School District 1 Superintendent
Jimmy Littlefield said his district referred only five or six students
to prosecutors last school year, but his staff already is busy tackling
truancy again.
"Even though we're only nine days into the school year, we've already
had some conversations with parents," Littlefield said Thursday. "We've
already had to send some school resource officers out to homes."
In schools throughout the county, students who miss five or more days of
school are placed under an intervention plan in which representatives of
the school district meet with the parents and develop plans to improve
the child's attendance. Students who accrue two additional unexcused
absences are considered habitual truants.
Often, a judge places the child under a court order to attend school.
Juveniles who violate that order can be placed on probation or even
detained at the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice. Parents, especially
of young children, can be charged in Family Court with education
Rob Rhoden, who prosecutes truancy cases for the solicitor's office,
said kids who don't want to attend school often start at the beginning
of the school year, adding up unexcused absences as the weeks tick by.
"You will see the sporadic attendance from the beginning of the school
year," he said.
Rhoden also has prosecuted parents. Those charges are possible when
prosecutors believe the student is too young to be accountable for
controlling his or her ability to attend school.
"Especially with elementary school kids, if you can break the cycle
early, then they have a chance," Rhoden said. "But what happens is they
fall into a pattern of not attending, and then they fall behind and
school becomes an uncomfortable place for them."
Administrators with Spartanburg County School District 3 haven't seen
parent conferences focused on truancy yet this school year, said Ruth
Schoonover, coordinator of children and family services. She gives some
credit to districtwide preventative efforts against truancy.
Last year, staff met with truant students and their parents, laid out
what they expected as far as attendance and stressed parents must follow
state law.
"It's just a reminder so they won't forget we're watching them,"
Schoonover said.
About one-third of District 7's estimated 7,500 students are considered
truant, Rice said, and about 25 percent of students who are ordered by a
judge to attend school violate that order.
Rice said sees common factors in students turned truants.
"Usually, you will find the parents didn't have much success in school,
meaning they were either dropouts or had some truancy issues," he said.
"The kids may have some other charges pending, been referred to DJJ for
other crimes, been in trouble with the law, those type factors - even
being behind in school."
Rice's message to students and parents is simple.
"It's the same message that it's been for years: Education is the key,"
he said. "Education is the key to success. Education could be your key
to happiness. It's free. Just try to obtain it and stay with it."

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