Hudson ISD says preventive truancy plan decreases cases

Hudson ISD says preventive truancy plan decreases cases

HUDSON, TX (KTRE) - The state of Texas is known for handing out the harshest punishments to children who don't show up to school.

Policy makers meeting in the Texas Legislature are in for a big debate on truancy policies.

More than a dozen bills have been proposed in an efforts to change those policies. An Angelina County school district told East Texas News how they handle the issue.

Today, Texas students who are not in the classroom are in the courtroom.

"The House and the Senate are trying to redo some of the truancy laws here in Texas," said Teresa Matthews, the intervention therapist for the Hudson Independent School District.

Texas has been one of just two states in America to prosecute truancy in adult courts. Consequences of fines and even jail time could follow.

"We hold the parents accountable as well as the children," Matthews said.

Policy makers feel that decriminalizing excessive absences is past due. They made it clear by proposing nearly 20 bills to reform truancy.

"There are a lot of different ones that are going on out there," Matthews said.

The topic will be up for debate in the 84th Legislature. According to the Texas Appleseed study, more than 100,000 students were prosecuted in Texas last year. Four out of five cases are poor children, and nearly 7,000 students were court ordered drop outs over the past three years.

Hudson ISD takes preventative measures to keep students out of truancy court.

"Myself or assistant principles or others in the staff will continue to contact the parents when we have unexcused absences," Matthews said.

Matthews said getting to the root of the issue before a student gets 10 unexcused absences helps a lot.

"I find that getting to know the parents, getting to know the students, finding out what's going on and building that relationship with them, that works more than anything else," Matthews said.

She said Hudson ISD only had around thirty to go to truancy court since the beginning of the school year, but house calls, community service, and parent talks all come before truancy is reported.

"The ultimate goal is for them to get through school and get that high school diploma," Matthews said.

Officials say Texas prosecutes more than twice the number of truancy cases than all other states combined.

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