The Brookings-Harbor High School truancy court — put in place earlier this year in conjunction with the city of Brookings — met Thursday evening to address two new cases of truancy and to monitor and get updates on a case first heard in November.
The idea of a truancy court was broached by Mark Hebert, the assistant principal at Brookings-Harbor High School, as part of what he offered as a successful program to address truancy and its underlying issues.
He said the goal of the court is to communicate what is most important: “Every kid should have an education and when they are deprived of that gift, it is a crime.”
You cannot educate students if they do not attend, he added.
Compulsory school attendance charges were brought against Daniel George, who appeared with his wife Diana as guardians of a female high school student; Cynthia Telford, who appeared with her daughter; and Kathryn Hill, who appeared with her daughter.
The Georges had returned with their ward for a progress check, however Helena Chirinian, who represented the schools, reported no progress had been made. In fact, according to school records presented, the student had missed multiple days and multiple periods within days in the last 10 days of school.
When asked about the absences by Municipal Court Judge Gary Milliman, she said she had extra credit and work samples done for some of her classes, other classes were electives and she was “not worried” about her grades. She added that she intended to graduate and felt she would do so.
Diana George said her ward often lived with her boyfriend and wasn’t home and said she could no longer control her now that she had turned 18.
Daniel George said he was usually working during school hours and not aware of her attendance, but added, “She thinks she has it all covered.”
Chirinian reported the student’s grades were falling, she was failing some classes due to her absences and she was in danger of not graduating.
Milliman said she had not complied with her attendance agreement and said, “$160 for each day missed would be pretty damaging, and that’s where we are headed.”
He ordered her to work with her guardians and boyfriend over the next 30 days and improve her attendance or fines would be imposed.
Milliman further noted that the law does not direct action only against parents and guardians and said her boyfriend might also be responsible for getting her to school.
“The idea of me telling my 18-year-old boyfriend that he is responsible is ridiculous,” she said.
Milliman instructed the clerk to issue a notice for her boyfriend to appear Feb. 7 along with the student and her guardians and instructed her to tell the clerk his name and address. He said her boyfriend could be fined if she did not improve her attendance.
She said his name was Reese Kelley and provided the clerk with an address.
Another female student appeared with her mother, Kathryn Hill, and said she was missing school because her mother could not drive her at times and she was tired and had little energy in the morning.
She and her mother noted she was a walker and was not assigned a bus. She estimated her walk to school at 20 minutes.
The school reported she had missed 17 days of class, more than one-third of school days so far.
Milliman noted he walked an hour to school when he was a boy and didn’t think 20 minutes was a hardship. He asked if a fine of $160 or $160 for each day missed would be a hardship.
Hill nodded that it would be. The Hills agreed to comply with the school’s attendance policies and signed a Brookings Municipal Court and School District Attendance Agreement. They will return to court Feb. 7 so the court can monitor progress.
Milliman said he would be there to help during the next month and encouraged the Hills to seek help from him or school officials if they needed it. He said the court was there to help students succeed.
The last student present had wracked up 13 absences and six tardies as of Thursday, according to Chirinian. She said she was an 11th-grader and was on-track to graduate, but added her poor attendance was hurting her grades.
The student said, “I don’t have energy in the morning.” She said she usually went to bed at midnight.
Her mother, Cynthia Telford, said she worked shifts and it was difficult to be there to get her off to school, but she should be present now every day but Monday to “nudge her along.”
She said Kaitlyn now had an alarm clock, and the Telfords agreed to comply with policy and also signed an attendance agreement and agreed to return for an update Feb. 7.
Hebert reported improvements on attendance and truancy at the Brookings-Harbor School District School Board Meeting Nov. 14, saying the new procedures initiated this year appear to be working.
He said 15 students with chronic absences had met with officials at that time, and 14 of the 15 had “turned it around.”
Students and parents are changing their approach to attendance because of interventions at the school, according to Herbert. He said the presence of the truancy court is decreasing absences as part of those programs.
Reach Boyd C. Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org .