Lawmakers vote to get tough on truancy | NevadaAppeal.com

Lawmakers vote to get tough on truancy

Parents who help their children evade classes could find themselves charged with misdemeanors and fines under a recommendation from the Legislative Committee on Education, which voted Wednesday to get tough on truancy.

But the committee may be trying to fix a problem that isn’t nearly as severe as some believe. According to the Nevada Department of Education, there were just 1,702 students in the state listed as truant in the 2005-06 school year, out of a total 412,179 in school.

The committee headed by Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, was told most of the legal language it needs – including possible fines – is already on the books, but is confusing and difficult to apply. Raggio said he understands there is “some heartburn” about the idea of fining parents and students who are truant. But he proposed legislation that would make the existing laws on that subject more realistic and workable.

Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, pointed out the problem isn’t necessarily those students identified as truants. She said in many cases, the parents sign off on the student’s absence so he or she isn’t listed as truant. She said the focus should be on all absences, not just unexcused absences.

Raggio said idea is to aim fines at situations when the parent is part of the problem.

“What we’re trying to address is to provide some criteria in the bill draft where the parent knowingly assists the child to be a truant,” he said. “We’re not talking about somebody who wants to take a trip and says ‘My child got the measles.'”

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The proposed legislation would also require school districts to improve monitoring and tracking of attendance so they can better identify the chronic truants and calls for an interim study on truancy and related issues.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, said the emphasis should be on middle school – the eighth grade – which is when she said teachers tell her truancy becomes a problem.

The proposal will be drafted for presentation to the 2007 Legislature.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.