Keeping Kids in School

Twelve school districts will partner with the Harris County District Attorney's Office to fight truancy this school year. The Stay in School program helps thousands of students who skip school avoid charges. Laurie Johnson reports.

The Stay in School program is an intervention effort to reduce dropout rates and help troubled kids get back
in the classroom.

Last year more than 33,000 students  in Clear Creek, Klein, Aldine, Galena Park and several other school districts
received warning letters about their truancy.

Harris County Assistant DA Michael Moore says the letters notify parents that their child has unexcused
absences and could be charged in court.

"That warning letter in and of itself has been our most successful tool. Over the years the success rate of that warning letter has been anywhere between 75 and 85 percent, meaning that of all the letters that go out 75 to 85 percent of them do not end up getting truancy charges filed during that school year."

Moore says many times it's a simple case of a parent not realizing they needed to submit an excuse note to their child's teacher. Moore calls the Stay in School program a carrot and stick approach to battling truancy.

"Just threatening people and saying you're going to be fined or you're going to go to jail if you don't go to school or your child doesn't go to school doesn't work, because in a lot of cases these kids have much more serious things going on in their life that aren't remedied by a threat of criminal prosecution."

The DA's office will send out informational letters to parents over the next few weeks reminding them exactly what the laws are about truancy and how they can help their children stay in school and out of trouble.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...