Carroll Officials Back Truancy Bill

February 12, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

ANNAPOLIS — A county commissioner and education administrator are expected to testify today before a House committee on legislation intended to crackdown on truancy in Carroll schools. Commissioner Julia W. Gouge and Pupil Services Director Edwin L. Davis plan to support the bill, sponsored by the Frederick County delegation, that would allow police officers to issue citations when they have "probable cause to believe" that a student is unlawfully absent from school.

The citation wouldmake truants subject to a civil fine of up to $25 for a first violation; $100 thereafter. The legislation would create a three-year pilotprogram, ending June 30, 1995, for Carroll and Frederick.

"We don't think it's an end-all to truancy," said Davis. "But if an officer saw kids loitering at the mall, he could intervene and getthe kids to school (which he can't now)."

The bill requires schools to investigate the citations and establish procedures for notifying parents. It also requires them to form an "intervention plan" to improve school attendance for a student after it is determined that an absence was unlawful.

The plan could include referring the case tothe Department of Juvenile Services, which would either work on the case with the family or send it to juvenile court.

Gouge says an "early intervention" program has the best chance to keep at-risk students in school.

She said school attendance should improve if children realize that police, schools, courts and "hopefully families" expect it.

Attendance for county schools in 1990-1991 was 94.2 percent, said Davis. Carroll ranked among the top five counties in attendance in a recent state report.

Davis estimates 2 percent of the students may be unlawfully absent. Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said studies show truancy is linked to higher dropout and teen-age pregnancy rates and drug use.

Carroll legislators endorse the bill because the county school board advocates it, noting the experiment might produce more telling results in an area with high truancy.

School officials from Carroll and Frederick volunteered to participate in theprogram recommended by the state Department of Education. Lt. Kenneth Tregoning, commander of the state police's Westminster barracks, said the agency supports "any reasonable endeavor to curb truancy."

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