When students skip class, parents could be the ones punished -- as criminals.
A new program in Marion County, Ind., which comprises 11 school districts including Indianapolis Public Schools, will allow prosecutor Terry Curry to file charges in criminal court against parents who don't send their children to school. The new system goes into effect this school year.
A student in the area is considered "habitually truant" if he or she has accumulated 10 or more unexcused absences in a single school year. The initiative applies to students 11 years of age or younger.
School social workers will monitor student attendance, and parents will be notified if their child has accumulated two or three absences. Following notification, the prosecutor's office will pick up the case from schools and determine if they must press charges.
For the most part, parents involved in cases will be asked to join a diversion program. Compliance means that nothing will be added to parents' criminal record, but noncompliance means appearance in criminal court and potential jail time.
The cases were formerly sent to juvenile court, but the new initiative aims to pressure parents to place added emphasis on their kids attending school, The Indianapolis Star reports.
"The children ... should not be relied upon to police their own behavior," Curry told The Star. "[Parents] need to step up to that responsibility."
The goal of the program, the prosecutor's office says, is to work with parents to curb instances of truancy -- not to target or punish those facing challenging situations.
"The purpose is to get kids in school and connect parents to resources they need," Curry told WISH-TV.
Marion County joins several communities across the country that are implementing stricter policies to fight truancy. Students in Concord, Calif. will be facing large fines for excessive unexcused absences beginning this school year.