Whitesburg KY
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22 parents face criminal counts for letting children miss school

Why do some children miss an excessive number of school days? What can be done to get those students in school on a regular basis? Will these students be successful if they are not present in school to learn all the content that is being taught?

These are questions that worry school and county officials enough to have had 22 parents summoned to Letcher District Court Friday morning. County Attorney Harold Bolling issued the criminal summons for parents whose children are in the sixth grade or below and have had between 15 and 30 unexcused absences for this school year.

District Judge Jim Wood said younger students rely more on their parents to get them to school than middle and high school students.

“Some of the kids are so young they don’t make the decision to go to school on their own,” said Wood.

Each parent was charged with third-degree unlawful transaction with a minor, a charge that can carry up to 12 months in jail and/or a $500 fine.

“These people have got to send their children to school,” said Bolling.

One parent told Wood in court on March 14 that his daughter makes good grades and asked if he would like to see her report card.

“The law is she goes to school, not that she passes,” said Wood.

Of the 13 parents that showed up, two pleaded guilty and were sentenced to supervised probation for two years. If their children have an unexcused absence during that time, the probation will be revoked and they could be ordered to serve six months in jail.

Those who pleaded not guilty are due back in district court on March 25, when pretrial conferences will be held to see if the cases can be worked

“It is something we hate to do but we have to take a stand,” said Anna Craft, superintendent of the Letcher County School System. “These parents are failing this group of children.”

Each school year a student is allowed to have five excused absences with a written note from a parent, in addition to an unlimited amount of written notes from doctors.

A student with three unexcused absences is defined as being truant and a student with six unexcused absences is considered to be habitually truant.

Kenneth Cornett, director of pupil personnel for the district, said 328 of the 1,757 students enrolled in sixth grade or below – about 18 percent – are habitually truant.

“If they don’t go to school, they aren’t going to get a good start and probably won’t finish school,” said Wood. “They get behind and can’t catch up with the other kids.”

Bolling said some people don’t understand the value of their children having an education.

“I don’t know how we get parents to understand the absolute necessity of an education,” said Bolling. “We want kids to get a good education so they can have a good life and get a good job. Education is the key.”

Bolling said the school system and the court will continue to work together to lower the number of students who are habitually truant.

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