Monday, March 9, 2009

Targeting Parents of Truant Kids

by Ed Zelaski

Athens County Prosecutor Dave Warren is working with Athens City Law Director Pat Lang to fight an escalating truancy problem. 38-year-old Jennifer Barnhart of Glouster is the first parent to face charges. She's charged with contributing to the unruliness of a minor. If convicted, she faces up to six months in prison or a $1,000 fine.

Warren says the county is going to crack down on parents who don't send their kids to school. "We're going to go after parents who are not seeing that their kids are educated," he says. He says in the past, social workers have waited until a child committed a crime to get involved.

Athens County Prosecutor Dave Warren on the crackdown

Continuous Problem
This is not the first problem that the county has had with Barnhart, Warren says. He says that it has been a struggle to get her to send her children to school. Some of the problems are generational. Warren says that there are other parents who don't send their children to kindergarten. He says this crackdown on parents can help change the problem. "When you don't have a hammer on the back end of it that says if you don't do this, we're going to take your kids away and you're going to go th jail, then maybe they'll get the message."

Problems With School Funding
Truancy creates problems with school funding. Attendance plays an important role, in the way the state funds schools. The school district's base fund is determined by multiplying the per-pupil base cost by the average daily attendance of the district. When students don't go to school, funding drops. "The schools are losing money and the kids aren't getting the education, so it's a double whammy," Warren says.

Revenue per-student for Athens County School Districts
Alexander Local Schools: $9,250
Athens City Schools: $9,306
Federal Hocking Local Schools: $10,228
Nelsonville-York City Schools: $9,001
Trimble Local Schools: $8,679

Prosecutor Dave Warren on the problems schools face

More Likely To Commit Crime
Warren says that kids who don't go to school are more likely to commit crimes and abuse drugs. He says that if the county does not prosecute parents for not sending children to school, there's a greater chance taxpayers will be paying for jail time. "We may as well bite the bullet now and say we're going to raise them and take them out of there and maybe we can save them in the process."

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