Fresno Unified cracks down on truancy

FRESNO, Calif.

Fresno Unified recently sent a letter home to parents warning them of the consequences both they and their student could face if they miss too much school.

A maximum penalty of one year in the county jail and a $25 hundred fine is spelled out in a letter that could be filed against parents whose children are in violation of the California education code.

Michael Hanson, Fresno Unified Superintendent said, "We have not prosecuted a family yet, but I would say yet because I think if that's what it needs to get to in order for people to see we're serious about every kid getting to school ready to learn, we'll do that."

The code states - children between the ages of 6 and 18 years old are legally required to attend school and to be on time. Absences are only excused if the child is ill or there is a death in the immediate family. And if a child is tardy more than 30 minutes - except for medical reasons - it's considered an unexcused absence.

Hanson said, "In a big district like ours with 72,000 kids we have about 4600, in one way shape or form, considered to be truant just about everyday, so that's a lot of kids."

Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson says criminal charges may also be filed against the student. And their work permit or driver's license could be delayed or revoked.

Hanson said, "Really there's no excuse. You need to be in school and our message to parents is we need to work with you, but really your kid cannot learn if they're not in the classroom."

The letter was also signed by the Fresno County Juvenile Probation Department and the Fresno Police Department. Both agencies are working with the district to combat chronic truancy.

Sgt. Rodney Cancio said, "At times you will find kids wondering the streets."

Sgt. Rodney Cancio says Fresno Police uses what it calls "operation stay in school". His department employs dozens of campus cops that actively seek out students who appear to be cutting class.

Sgt. Rodney Cancio said, "If they contact kids that are supposed to be in school, they take them back."

Back to campus and the classroom where students belong.

Sgt. Rodney Cancio said, "If they're in school, they're learning so we don't have to worry about that so much."

Cancio says it's all a part of the truancy prevention program. A program - he says - has proven to be effective in keeping kids in school and out of trouble.

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