Rochester, New Hampshire: If Kids Skip School, Parents Face Criminal Charges

In a controversial move, school officials are charging parents if their child is chronically absent.

Parents could face criminal charges if their kid is chronically absent. (Photo: Kevin Horan)
Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.

School officials in Rochester, New Hampshire, are fed up with just how many kids are strolling into school late or not coming at all. Already this year, 531 public school students, in a district of 4,000, have missed five to ten days of school.

In an effort to curb chronic absenteeism, the district and police force have teamed up. Starting January 1, parents could face criminal charges and a fee of $1,000 if their child continually skips school.

Rob Seaward, principal of Spaulding High School in Rochester, said absenteeism is one of his biggest concerns and he's hoping this will help get kids into the classroom. If students don't come to school, he says, we can't lead them to success.

More: Chronic Absenteeism: New Study Reveals Surprising Facts

If kids miss too many days, Foster.com reports, parents will be called before Rochester Circuit Court. There they can plead guilty and pay a fine or pay for an educational program they attend with their child. If this doesn't work, higher fines will start rolling in.

So is it the parents who are the problem, or is it the kids?

Seaward says it depends. "We have truant students whose parents are very much involved" and parents who "have nothing to do with the student."

During a school day last week, Seaward went to one of these kid's houses. The student is 15 years old and has only been to class one day this year. The child was sitting on the couch next to his adult family members. The parents played lip service, Seaward says, but in reality, they are doing "absolutely nothing" to get their child into school.

This is the type of case where he'd like to see parents in court. They need to realize they're going to be held accountable if they don't do something to help their child get an education, he says.

While Rochester may be unique in its handling of chronic absenteeism, the problem is widespread. Each year up to 7.5 million students in the U.S. miss a month of a school.

Do you think parents should face criminal charges if their child misses too much school? Share your thoughts in comments.

Jenny is the Education Editor at TakePart. She has been writing for TakePart since 2009 and previously worked in film and television development. She has taught English in Vietnam and tutors homeless children in Los Angeles. Email Jenny | @jennyinglee | TakePart.com

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