Truancy program holds Rapides Parish students and parents accountable

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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - To crack down on student absences in Rapides Parish, the district attorney's office teamed up with six schools in the parish to enforce daily attendance.

Last year, a truancy pilot program was tested at Bolton High School. Due to its success, the DA's office decided to include more schools in the program this year.

"When we first started the program, our attendance rate was around 73.6 percent," said Bolton High School Principal Clovis Christman. "We saw an increase last year of an excessive 93 percent."

To increase attendance the Rapides Parish District Attorney's Office decided to hold both parents and students accountable.

District Attorney Phillip Terrell said the program started at Bolton because it had the highest truancy rate in Rapides Parish.

"There was a lot of crime in the area," Terrell said. "There were kids who were walking around during the school day in the mall, which is just not a good thing."

After five absences students are called in to talk to administration with their parent.

If they continue to miss, Assistant District Attorney
Clifton Spears said both could be prosecuted.

"If the parent is enabling the child to miss school, be truant, be late, then i am going to prosecute the parent," Spears said.

Parents could face a fine or possibly 30 days in jail and students could be relocated into a group home.

"That's a non secure facility, no bars, no fences and they would be placed in a behavior modification plan which involves getting them to go to school."

Renaissance Home for Youth is one of those facility's where a Peabody High student was sent on Tuesday, after a gun was discovered with his belongings.

While Terrell said this is unfortunate, he said the school's resource officer successfully found the gun.

"They know all of the kids, they know their situations and they do a great job protecting the school," Terrell said.

Christman said he hopes the new program will start to limit incidents like this throughout parish schools, as it has at Bolton.

"Once we started the program here at Bolton of vigorously pursuing attendance, the DA's office said they saw a 20 percent drop in the crime rate in this area during school hours," Christman said.

The five other schools now involved in the truancy program are Alexandria Middle Magnet, Tioga Junior High, Arthur F. Smith Middle Magnet, Peabody High and Tioga High.

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