Schools Crack Down on Class Skipping

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Every day thousands of students skip school in the U.S., but some are making it more difficult for kids to fail.

Truancy, or unexcused absence, is a major problem in America's schools.

Debbie White of Virginia Beach Public Schools says her school district averages "about 400 students a year that are chronic truant."

"And what that means is they miss over 10 days of school a year without their parents knowledge," she explained.

White says kids skip school for various reasons, like lack of supervision.

"The parent leaves for work earlier they think their child has gotten up and gone to school," she said.

"There are also personal reasons," she added. "We have students who have drug and alcohol issues and they will skip school. We have students who just want to hang out with their friends."

Each year, kids in America lose more than 5 million days of their education through truancy and research shows that those who skip school are more likely to drop out-- setting themselves up for a life of struggle.

 Holding Students Accountable

Judge Cobos of Midland Texas is making it hard on students who habitually miss class. In his courtroom, kids are the ones fined for their actions, not their parents.

"Using your poor grandmother's illness is a bunch of crap. You haven't been to school all year," Cobos said to one truant in court.

Fifteen-year-old Brandon Ormsby was skipping school and using drugs. His mother was desperate.

White says it's a common problem for parents like Ormsby's mom. But not so in judge Cobos' courtroom.

"We receive weekly phone calls from parents indicating they have attempted to get their child to come to school and their child will not come to school," he said.

Monitors Make a Lasting Impact

Cobos was the first in the state to use a form of GPS on truants. The ankle monitor allows the court to keep tabs on problem students at all times.

In the last year, he's placed the electronic leash on 20 teenagers and the impact has been dramatic.

"This ankle monitor keeps me in school. keeps me at home," teen Joey Salazar said.

His mother agreed.

"Last night we got to bake cookies together. It's been forever since we'd done anything like that together," she said.

Extreme Measures but No Regrets

White says her school district offers a different approach, rather than "tracking" students.

"We look at more preventative approaches. We don't want to be punitive with the students," she explained. "We actually work with the student and the family and offer resources that will help the student come back to school instead of tracking the student and finding out every move the student makes,"

Still, Judge Cobos says he has no regrets about the measures.

"What if it was your child?" he asked. "It's kind of personal to me. I want to do everything humanly possible."

Judge Cobos raises private funds to pay for food and clothing for kids who are missing school, and it seems his efforts are paying off.

School attendance is up five percent this year, and the juvenile detention rate has been cut in half.

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Charlene Israel

Charlene Israel

CBN News Reporter

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