- Associated Press - Monday, May 26, 2014

ST. CHARLES, Mo. (AP) - A new program in suburban St. Louis holds parents accountable if their kids skip school.

Missouri law requires minors to go to school at least until age 17. Students who are excessively truant must go through a juvenile court process.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1gTMV7i ) reports that under a program that begins in the 2014-15 school year in the St. Charles School District, parents and guardians will be held liable and could face a misdemeanor charge if their children are truant too often.

St. Charles County prosecutor Tim Lohmar said students and their families will begin the process after the student has five absences. The situation will be evaluated, and the family will be referred to any social agencies that may be able to help.

If truancy persists and parents are uncooperative, they could face up to 15 days in jail and a $300 fine.



School district Superintendent Jeff Marion said students who miss more than 17 days will be targeted. He said absenteeism sometimes begins as early as kindergarten.

“It happens for a variety of reasons; the biggest one is lack of seeing school as important,” Marion said.

The effort in St. Charles was led by St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann. He became concerned after he saw the district’s score from the 2013 Missouri School Improvement Program.

Attendance figures played a part in the district’s overall score, and showed that 86.2 percent of the students attended 90 percent of the time; the benchmark is 90 percent of the students 90 percent of the time. If the district can reach the 90-90 mark and slightly improve other scores, it would be accredited with distinction.

“The debate continues on how to improve our schools: One group thinks the schools need more money, another wants better teachers, administrators and school boards,” said Ehlmann. “Both sides should be able to agree that students cannot learn if they aren’t in school.”

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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