A Truancy Initiative of Prosecutor David Leyton
Truancy in our schools is a serious problem that affects not just the students and schools involved but, in many ways, our entire community. A chronic pattern of truancy, especially in a student’s early years, can lead to poor grades, a sense of detachment from academics and peers, and a path toward dropping out before graduating from high school. This, in turn, diminishes a person’s ability to succeed in life and can lead to a long-term dependency on public and private social service programs and many times leads to various contacts with the criminal justice system.
Prosecutor Leyton believes that taking a proactive approach toward truancy is one step that can assist with the long-term goal of reducing crime in our community and lessening the burden on social service programs by preparing today's students to be productive citizens tomorrow.
With those thoughts in mind, “Project Chalkboard” partners the Prosecutor's Office with schools and local police in an effort to combat truancy by holding parents and guardians responsible for their elementary age children’s attendance at school under the State’s Compulsory Education Act.
Background of Project Chalkboard
Michigan law (M.C.L. 380.1561) states in pertinent part:
“…every parent, guardian, or other person in this state having control and charge of a child from the age of 6 to the child's sixteenth birthday shall send that child to a public school during the entire school year.
The child's attendance shall be continuous and consecutive…”
The ABC’s of Project Chalkboard
Grades 1st through 4th
- After 15 days of absences from school:
- School sends two letters to parent(s)
- NOTE: Many schools have policies that are even more proactive and intervene before 15 days of absences. Other intervention methods are also used.
- After 2 letters from school:
- Prosecutor Leyton will send a warning letter to the parent(s) explaining the law and possible consequences.
- If no progress is made:
- Prosecutor’s office will refer the case to local police for an investigation. After the investigation, the police may bring a misdemeanor warrant request to the Prosecutor’s Office for charges against the parent(s) pursuant to MCL 380.1561. The law requires a jail sentence of 2 days to 90 days in jail plus costs and fines.
ITEMS NEEDED BY THE PROSECUTOR
FOR TRUANCY INVESTIGATIONS
SCHOOLS TO PROVIDE FOLLOWING ITEMS TO POLICE DURING TRUANCY INVESTIGATION:
- Any and all correspondence sent to parents/guardians relative to the truancy of the child
- Any and all notes from parent/teacher conferences relative to the truancy of the child
- Any report cards for the child from the past two years
- Copies of at least two warning letters sent by certified or registered mail to the parent or guardian of the truant child
- Official notarized affidavit from the school attendance officer or the custodian of records indicating the child’s absences
- Complete copy of the child’s attendance records
- Parents/Guardians names and addresses. And, any school records indicating the name of the custodial parent or legal guardians as necessary.
- Any other supporting documents the schools might have such as the school’s attendance policies
POLICE TO INTERVIEW:
- Parents or guardians. We have been noticing that parents/guardians are typically not being interviewed by the police to find out why their children are not in school. An interview statement in the police report would be helpful.
- The students themselves
- School Counselors
- Home/school liaison staff
- Physicians as appropriate (Oftentimes, parents submit "absence excuse" notes from doctors or claim illnesses. Verify conditions and office visits directly with the doctor's office)