We have 4 candidates that are in the race for General Session Court Part One. Their primary duty however, if arrangements remain the same, will be matters primarily concerning Juvenile Court. All 4 candidates are highly qualified and each of them has a unique experience in that Court. This juvenile jurisdiction will include matters concerning truancy. It is my hope that when truancy cases do reach him/her, this incoming Judge will see the issue of truancy as the real social problem it can become. Over the past several years matters pertaining to truancy have been, at least during the initial phases, primarily left in the hands of an administrative board. This came about primarily as a result of the adoption of an ill-advised law that takes truancy out of the hands of the Juvenile Court Judge until certain administrative efforts have been attempted. As a result, truancy issues are slow to be resolved and little deterrence is felt by either the neglecting parent(s) or the truant. Once truancy becomes an issue with a particular student and or parent(s) and the problem is not immediately corrected, a hearing is scheduled before an administrative board. A hearing before this board may take several days if not weeks. In the meantime, the neglecting parent(s) and/or the truant student has little incentive to correct the problem. While the members of this board are tasked to address and correct the truancy problem, they actually pose little threat to the offenders. Teachers and school officials become frustrated, and if the truancy issue is resolved it takes an unwarranted amount of time with little threat to those who might reoffend…and because there is no real consequence, an overwhelming number do continue to reoffend. Truancy issues, especially serious truancy issues, need more than group discussions before a board if they are to be corrected. While the law may provide for initial administrative review before court action is taken, that review should occur immediately. Truancy, if not addressed and corrected quickly, leads to many social problems other than just missing school. Truancy in many cases leads to further or other more serious delinquent offenses. A child not in school, especially an older child, who has become a truancy problem is, more likely than not, engaged in unproductive activity. Truancy problems can readily become community problem and they usually do. Serious truancy matters need to be resolved quickly. The way to correct this problem is for the Juvenile Judge to take charge of matters when they do come before him/her and do so immediately. A parent(s) who claims their 3rd grader has missed 15 days of school because they “just can’t make him or her get up in time to catch the bus” needs to face serious consequences…especially if they reoffend. When I was Juvenile Judge few reoffended. Third graders went to school or parents went to jail. A weekend in jail for the neglecting parent(s) worked wonders…after that, parents of 3rd graders were eager to see them get up on time and catch the bus. In those cases, where a 3rd grader or a young child is becoming a truant problem I would put much if not most all the blame on the parent(s). Make no mistake, the child would hear from me too, but the primary cure was found in correcting the parent issues. Of course, there were truancy problems where parent(s) were not responsible. A good example might be where a parent has little control over an older child, and despite that parent’s best efforts this older child would not respect the directions of that parent. In those cases, my policy would be serious punitive measures primarily directed toward the offending juvenile. The most important consideration however, was that the truancy problem was addressed with authority and it was addressed immediately. It was not delegated to a board. It was not delayed. Over those 8 years I held office as this county’s Juvenile Judge we reduced truancy, but more importantly we reduced our county’s high school dropout rate from over 10% down to 2%. I was proud of that accomplishment. I didn’t ask a board to do what I was elected to do. I hope the successful candidate will see truancy as a serious social issue, which can and will become a community problem if not corrected and corrected immediately.

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