Texas Remedy for Skipping School: Send Teens to Jail

BuzzFeed finds at least 1K jailed over the last 3 years on charges related to truancy
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 24, 2015 11:48 AM CDT

(Newser) – High school students in Texas who make a habit of ditching school aren't just risking the wrath of an angry principal, they're going to jail. Actual, adult jail. A BuzzFeed investigation finds that more than 1,000 teens have been ordered to prison in the last three years in three big counties alone. The jailing is an indirect result of skipping classes: Typically a school files misdemeanor truancy charges for chronic truants; those charges require a court appearance and a fine, but the often-poor students involved skip the court date, and the fines mount. Eventually, police show up to bring the kid to court, and when he can't pay the penalty of hundreds of dollars or more, he gets the option of going to jail for a "credit" of $300 for each day behind bars.

One notable part of the system: BuzzFeed reports that the students end up in municipal or "justice of the peace" courts whose judges aren't required to have a law degree. In fact, one of the most prolific student-jailers is a judge in Collin County, outside Dallas, who doesn't have a bachelor's degree. He defends his tactics as being of the tough-love kind that often gets kids back on track. But a critic from the Juvenile Justice Strategy Group says the practice of sending students to adult jail "is so beyond the pale." Chronic truants generally are skipping school because of complicated problems at home, he adds, and sending them to prison only makes things worse. Click for the full BuzzFeed investigation.

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