Parental Liability and Truancy: Is It Effective? Is It Fair?

Gina Michel Luby, IL Atty General's Gang Crime Preven. Ctr.

Charging parents with the truancy of their children is an action many communities and local governments are using to combat high rates of unexcused absences in their schools. Truancy is often blamed for high daytime crime rates and is considered a risk factor of more serious delinquent behavior. These links often result in truancy programs implemented through interagency collaboration including a law enforcement element such as police involvement, court appearances, and fines and jail time. Instead of threatening the truant child with legal punishment these programs target the parents. One such program, the Right Track Truancy Reduction pilot program, implemented by the Office of the Illinois Attorney General's office, was evaluated using attendance data that monitored the progress of the program's students. Although it showed favorable results with regard to increased attendance, it did not address the parent's response to the program. This current study attempts to understand just how effective the parents felt this policy is or can be and whether or not they should be held liable. Interviews with forty (N = 40) participating families indicate that there is support for parental responsibility. However, those who were in favor of this approach more often found themselves outside of the circumstances for which they felt these laws should apply. A review of these circumstances is addressed as well as implications for future program modifications.

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Updated 05/20/2006