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School officials say stricter truancy policy shows results

Associated Press

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - A policy in the Cape Girardeau School District that makes parents responsible for their children's truancy appears to be having some impact, officials said.

The district's truancy policy, a cooperative effort of the district, the prosecutor's office and the police department, holds parents responsible for their children failing to attend school.

The district sends letters to parents after their children have missed three, five and seven days of classes. On the 10th day, the district turns a form over to a school resource officer who takes it to the Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, according to Sherry Copeland, assistant superintendent for academic services.

"We had to put procedures and processes in place to make sure students show up for school," Copeland said.

In addition to fewer warning letters being sent out, there are also fewer parents pleading guilty to the misdemeanor offense of not ensuring their children are in school.

Assistant Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Frank Miller said that of 82 letters given out the first year of the policy, seven people pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor; for the 2011-12 school year, 80 letters were delivered and two people pleaded guilty; in 2012-13 school year, 77 letters were delivered and three people pleaded guilty.

Penalties can be 15 days in jail and a $300 fine. Some people have been placed on probation for up to two years and required to send their child to school, Miller said.

"The ultimate goal is not to punish the parents; it's to get the children in the classroom and get them learning," Miller said.

Copeland said parents now understand the policy after living with it for four years.

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