Huntsville City Schools gives students, parents fair warnings to prevent truancy

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Under Alabama law, children between the ages of six and 17 must be enrolled in a school. If not, the student and his or her parent or guardian could wind up behind bars. But, Huntsville City Schools says the district provides additional resources to get children to class.

Truancy means students enrolled in Alabama public schools must explain in writing the cause of any and every absence within a three-day time frame.

"We want to get that marked in the system so we have it marked as an excused and not an unexcused absence," Keith Ward, Huntsville City Schools' Spokesman, said.

The child's school principal will notify the parent after the first three unexcused absences. After that, the central office is notified.

"They may go out for a home visit to see if they can find out what might be the problem, if we see that absentee rise," Ward said.

The district employs truancy specialists and social workers. They're on the student support services team that works to connect families with agencies, who may find a solution to the problem.

"So that maybe we can get a personal situation rectified and help get them to school," Ward said.

Under Alabama law, a child found guilty of truancy could wind up in a juvenile facility or in long-term residential care. If the person who has custody of the child is prosecuted for truancy, that person could face a year of jail time, a fine of up to $500 or both. Huntsville City Schools doesn't want that to happen.

"The last resort would be to end up having to bring the parent in on some type of charges," Ward said.

School leaders in Tennessee recently announced they will make more of an effort to combat truancy. If a child has too many unexcused absences, parents may need to take part in truancy interventions with their child. This is an option rather than juvenile court.