FRANKLIN, Ind. – Eleven parents in Johnson County are facing criminal charges for not taking their kids to school enough. The county prosecutor’s office said they violated the compulsory attendance law.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Joe Villanueva said he cannot remember the office pursuing these cases to this extent.
The county’s Community Corrections Juvenile Division offers a program designed for the treatment and prevention of child abuse and neglect. In several cases, the defendants failed to appear according to court documents.
That’s why the prosecutor’s office is stepping in to help.
“We don’t want to put them in jail. That is the last place we want to put them. We just want to try and correct the behavior,” said Villanueva.
Court documents said most children had more than 20 unexcused absences in the 2017-2018 school year.
One mom is accused of letting her kid be unexcused from 112 days of school this past school year.
In three cases, both parents were charged.
“Your job as a parent first and foremost is to take care of your child,” said Villanueva. “Before we were getting involved, there was no real enforcement mechanism.”
Villanueva said schools notify parents of an issue when a child racks up five unexcused absences in a school year. After 10 of those absences, schools refer families to the program at Johnson County Community Corrections.
He said the office will get involved if a student has 18 or more unexcused absences in a school year.
Adam Baker with the States Department of Education said it is uncommon to hear students missing more than 20 days of school. He encouraged districts to take on partnerships with their community to help students succeed.
“Attendance equals academic success. We have known that. Studies have shown that. It is clear and evident that when kids are in school, that is when they are learning,” Baker said.
As of Friday, Villanueva said none of the 11 parents have been found guilty of this crime. Three parents have entered their pretrial diversion program.
If parents are found guilty, Villanueva said they could be deferred to a diversion program or face 180 days of probation.