Why 18 Florida parents were arrested when their kids skipped school

Dozens of parents in Florida have been arrested for failing to take their kids to elementary school, resulting in some cases to kids missing multiple grade advancements because of truancy. How can other parents lend a hand?

Courtesy of the State Attorney's office for the Fourth Judicial Circuit
A mug shot of Tiffany Furror, one parent arrested in Florida for allowing her child to repeatedly miss school.

The arrest of 18 Jacksonville, Fla. parents for repeatedly failing to send their kids to elementary school has sent a message to some parents about the importance of education. 

Meanwhile, many responsible parents are shaking their heads at those who would keep their children from school often enough to result in them being held back twice before the second grade.

There are 180 days in the Duval County school calendar. Currently, according to a release from the State Attorney’s Office, 44 of the worst truancy cases have resulted in a combined total of 6,558 days absent in the last three school years. 

“In one case, a child missed 239 school days since 2011,” says Jackie Bernard, director of communications for the Duval County District Attorney’s Office in a phone conversation. “That child was retained twice due to excessive absences, and is now 9-years-old in the first grade.”

Police are still seeking an additional 26 parents for arrest on the same issue with charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor being lodged by the Duval district attorney’s office.

Ms. Bernard says, “Multiple efforts were made to help these families and work with them. The schools tried repeatedly and when that didn’t have any effect it went to the courts and our Truancy Arbitration Program at the State Attorney’s Office. When that failed what was left was arrest.”

The adults were arrested over the course of last Thursday through this Monday and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and failure to comply with compulsory school attendance laws, according to according to a press release from the district attorney’s office.

Like most parents who consider education important, I really have trouble relating to the parents who are being arrested.

Aside from the value and power of education as one of the greatest gifts we can give our children, sometimes we’re just plain happy to see kids off to school so we can catch a breather.

For me, the mother of four sons, the old Staples commercial of a parent dancing down the store’s aisles buying school supplies as Andy Williams’ classic Christmas Song “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” chimes merrily in the background is symbolic of the joy of sending kids to school.

For many parents, that song has come to represent the joys sending kids back to school after a long summer vacation.

However, the parents of the 44 kids involved in this truancy action fit a completely different parenting profile from most parents, according to the Truancy Prevention website

According to the site, families where truancy is prevalent may have the following characteristics: parent(s) who don’t value education, parent(s) who did not complete school, were truant themselves, low socio-economic status, family history of delinquency, single parent families, and multiple child families.

Also, the site reveals that children who have high truancy rates tend to: have low grades in reading and mathematics, struggle with challenges such as dyslexia, are unable to make friends with mainstream students or teachers, and ultimately have negative attitudes toward school or teachers.

“The truancy sweep is necessary to send a clear message to our parents that this behavior is not acceptable,” said State Attorney Angela Corey in statement. “Parents are responsible for the care and well-being of their children, which includes ensuring their children’s attendance at school.”

However, having seen the extensive measures gone to by both the school district and the TAP program, it would seem that message may be falling on deaf ears.

Perhaps it’s time to get even more of the village involved in helping these children.

While it is not the responsibility of responsible parents to raise children who aren’t getting help from their parents, it may be a privilege to help kids in need break the cycle of truancy. Perhaps then, both parents and kids can realize that every day spent learning is “The most wonderful time of the year.”

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