Bexar County Commissioners say truancy is nothing to sneeze at, and Commissioners, along with city and school officials, are pushing a Uniform Truancy Case Management Program, which will ‘provide a consistent way to file and handle truancy and other minor juvenile cases throughout Bexar County,’ across all 15 independent school districts.
“Truancy has been called a gateway crime in that a great majority of inmates in adult prisons report their first appearance before a judge was as a juvenile on truancy charges,” County Judge Nelson Wolff told 1200 WOAI news. “If we can keep these kids in school and address the reasons they are truant before they ever acquire a charge, then we have a better chance of keeping them out of jail as adults.”
Under Texas law, truancy is committed if a student between the ages of 6 and 18 is absent from school without an excuse for ten or more days within a six month period. Failure to attend school is a Class C misdemeanor, like a speeding ticket or a municipal code violation. Students can be given up to a $500 fine and can be taken into custody. A student over 16 can have his or her drivers license yanked for truancy, but the crime itself cannot be punished by a jail sentence. Truancy is a crime under the Texas Education Code.
Under the system, the City of San Antonio will administer the truancy program, across all school districts, and the city’s municipal court system will hear all juvenile cases, regardless of whether the truancy took place in the city or not.
The U.S. Department of Education reports that a student drops out of school in the United States every 26 seconds, and one out of every four high school freshmen will not make it to graduation. Truancy as a child is one of the major causes of welfare dependency as an adult, and one class of dropouts will cost Texas taxpayers $9.6 billion over their lifetime in lost wages and taxes, welfare payments, and the costs of incarceration.