Truancy policies aim to keep kids in class

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - The school year just started, giving kids a clean slate for attendance. But schools are ready to take action should parents allow their kids to skip class.

A study by the Southern Poverty Law Center says that a full classroom of students drops out of school every day in Alabama. School districts have policies in place to keep kids, and their guardians, focused on education.

"Students that do not come to school without an excusable reason are considered truant," said Geraldine Tibbs, director of Public Relations and Communications for Madison County Schools.

Truancy can bring consequences for parents. Thursday morning, 53-year-old Cynthia Armstrong Blankenship was charged with Failure to Make a Child Attend School. The Madison County Sheriff's Department says Blankenship turned herself in just before noon and bonded herself out three hours later.

"We do have policies in our student code of conduct that we ask them to read and to sign," said Tibbs.

With the first unexcused absence comes a letter to parents...

"After five days, the school will call them in for a conference to talk with them about that, and then after 7 days, further steps are taken," explained Tibbs.

District officials say that more often than not, parents do cooperate once notified, and that all of these rules, and penalties, apply to students ages 6 to 17.

"If improvement is not made, there might have to be a complaint filed with the proper authorities," said Tibbs. If it reaches that point, a guardian can face a misdemeanor. But, Tibbs explains, the district would rather see kids in class than parents in jail.

"It is not our desire to inconvenience our parents. We are partners in education, and because we are, we encourage our parents to keep their child in school each and every day."

According to the Southern Education Foundation, 1 million Americans begin high school and only 70 percent of them graduate. Alabama has had a 25-year pattern where only 60 percent of freshmen graduate four years later.