The City of Tulsa plans to launch a special truancy court to help get students back in the classroom.
If approved, the plan would mark a shift to helping families get their kids to school, instead of punishing them when the students miss class.
The problem of what to do about children who miss class has tested administrators for years.
Tulsa Public Schools says it has found a solid indicator of problems.
“Students, when they’ve missed that 10 days, we’ve found, they’ve set certain habits that lead to them missing even more days,” said Dr. Ebony Johnson.
The problem led the Tulsa City Council to come up with a new strategy.
A Truancy Task Force has met for the last six months.
“The intention is not to penalize, but to get to the root of the problem and find out exactly what is going on with the family and find out what we can do with resources to help them get back in school,” said Councilor Karen Gilbert.
The Truancy Task Force’s recommendations include more intervention before schools refer cases to court, as well as removing jail time as a punishment and lowering fines.
By creating an alternative, Truancy Court, it means families who complete the program could have the charge dismissed with no fine.
“If the families decide not to go through it, that’s their decision, but there will be some court costs attached to their fines,” said Gilbert.
The task force, even as they finalize the recommendations, debated how to balance encouragement with punishment.
They say they’re hopeful the new court system will make punishment the very last resort.
“Yes, there needs to be accountability measures in place because our students deserve a quality education,” said Johnson. “You’ve got to be there to get it, though.”
The new system is purely on the city level and would only involve schools inside Tulsa’s city limits and only the students who are chronically absent without explanation.
Truancy Task Force Recommendations: