CLOVIS, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico district attorney is going after parents who allow their kids to miss too much school by filing criminal charges. Even though the crime doesn’t carry serious punishment, it’s about sending a message.
This week, the Ninth Judicial District Attorney’s office filed charges against four parents in Clovis Municipal Schools for allowing their kids to skip class dozens of times, without a real excuse.
“These are kids with excessive absences, 25, 50 absences in a three, four-month period where the parents are just not getting them to school,” said District Attorney Andrea Reeb.
They began cracking down about 10 years ago and aren’t letting up anytime soon. Fellow parents thing it’s good.
“I don’t know what their circumstances are, but with my family, we know everything. We’re like, they need to be at school, no matter…even when they’re sick sometimes, if it’s not really bad we still make them go,” said Deidra Domanski.
It has two parts. A proactive one, which includes going into the schools with a mascot and promoting perfect attendance. The other part is prosecuting parents with kids in eighth grade and under for truancy.
“Every year, at the end of the semester, we collect the most egregious cases,” said Reeb.
Reeb says this program is important to her and the office in the bigger picture of combatting crime because typically, the convicted violent offenders and murderers they’ve dealt were high school dropouts.
She says since going after these cases, they’ve seen an increase in attendance and a lower drop-out rate in the schools.
It takes a lot to get charged. Ten absences in a school year is considered habitually truant. After that, there are a few steps the schools take before the DA’s office will step in.
“These are the parents who, we’re showing up to their house to talk to them about why their kids aren’t in school, and the child’s laying on the couch watching TV with them,” said Reeb.
The first offense is only a petty misdemeanor with a $25 fine. It goes up for the second offense, with a possibility of six months in jail and up to a $500 fine.
Reeb says they want to send the message that failing to consistently get your kids to school without a real reason will not be tolerated.
“They should do something like that,” said Domanski. “If somebody sees another kid like, ‘Oh I don’t want to go to school,’ and then they think something’s happening as a parent, then they’re going to push like, ‘No, you need to get there.’”
Reeb also says at the end of every year, they give out prizes as an incentive for perfect attendance. Prizes have included a car, all-expenses-paid family trips, laptops, and more.