Judge Enforced Attendance

An article in The Boston Globe details how one school district is “expanding a program that requires the parents of chronically truant public school students to appear before a probate judge.” Apparently, the program cut unexscused absences from 1072 (September through January) to 87 (February through June). The judge has the power to require any of the following of parents and students:

  • extra tutoring,
  • parenting classes,
  • counseling,
  • drug rehabilitation, and
  • even have guardianship challenged.

One parent called the program a “wake-up call.” Well, thank goodness is all I can say to that. I can’t believe that a child’s attendance in school would be anything but a paramount concern to a parent.

I do like seeing the parent held responsible for young children’s attendance. I don’t know that this would necessarily work at the high school level, but I like the attempt. I’ve always maintained that education is a social issue, and this policy seems to reinforce and validate that perspective.


A friend of mine who retired recently used to advocate for a program like the one above as well as charging families when a high school student must repeat a course. We figured that in my department alone, 1.5 teachers were need just for students repeating classes. Building-wide it must be quite a number of students resulting in quite an expenditure for the district. Again, I’m not sure this is a solution but an interesting premise nevertheless.


4 thoughts on “Judge Enforced Attendance

  1. Renee

    I have experienced this. Where we live, Texas, I have heard of parents of truant students having to appear before a judge and being fined. Also, when I was student teaching, there was a girl who chronically slept in class. One day, when my mentor teacher wasn’t there, I asked her why she slept and whether she was worried about her grade or passing. She said that she wasn’t getting credit for the year because she had already missed too many days, but that the judge ordered her to come to school! Well, she wasn’t a behavior problem and I understood then why she would just rather sleep. However, imagine if she was one of those behavior problems!

    Even so, since it is the responsibility of parents to get their kids to school, I do agree with fining parents for their child’s truancy.

  2. Nuss

    Just another unintended consequence of NCLB. If a student fails a course, it’s not on the students or the parents to make sure the kid passes, it’s on the teacher. Think about how small we could get our classes — and how much better we could be as teachers — if we didn’t have to allocate such tremendous resources to those students. And I’m not talking about the students who just don’t get it, or are having a hard time; I’m talking about the students who pretty much refuse to do work, which is the vast majority of those who fail classes.

    Better yet, think of the enriching courses we could offer, such as increased electives? After all, it was an elective course that set me off into my first career as a journalist …

  3. drpezz Post author

    Also, tied to this are the numerous electives cut to allow students to “double dip” by taking two English classes or two math classes and the like. In theory we increase the achievement in that content area. However, we may also take away the one passion (the elective) keeping the student in school.

    Schools cannot solve all of society’s ills. Schools reflect the communities in which they reside. Without changing the public’s perceptions and motivations regarding education, I think we are in trouble.

    Maybe court-enforced encouragement in dealing with absenteeism is a start. The liberal in me sees this as an excellent idea because education is the door to success. On the other hand, the conservative in me says that the government should not be invading the family and legislating parenting, that less government is good government. Let’s hope this, too, does not become a partisan issue.


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