A new administrative rule for the processing of truancy citations and referrals to juvenile court with penalties for violations were approved by representatives of Schuylkill County school districts for the 2010-2011 school term following a forum held in the auditorium of the Schuylkill Intermediate Technical Center near Marlin in Norwegian Township Friday. Schuylkill President Judge Willliam E. Baldwin, presided.

The administrative rule for processing adopted were as follows:

Upon a student missing one illegal day of school, a representative from the district will make a face to face contact with the family and ensure they are provided with a copy of the county truancy policy. Upon the youth accumulating a total of three illegal days of school the district shall make a verbal referral to the county Children and Youth Office and the agency shall start tracking the attendance .

Within five business days of the verbal referral the agency will conduct a home visit and verbally review the county truancy policy and the agency will continue to track the child's attendance for an additional 90 school days. A meeting will be arranged with Truancy Elimination Plan (TEP) to discuss issues leading to the truancy and plans to correct behavior. If the youth misses one day following the development of theTEP the school district shall file a citation with the magisterial district judge. Upon the filing of the first citation the Office of Childlren and Youth will file a dependency petition and request that the case be fast tracked to the truancy court.

If the student misses three illegal days following the issuance of the dependency order a review hearing will be scheduled and alternative options, including placement in a weekend program, will be explored. If at anytime during the process the family or student become uncooperative the agency will petition the court for an order to participate in services.

Judge Baldwin stated, "Initially it is important to know that by definition compulsory school attendance is from eight to 17 years old and if a student under the age of eight is enrolled and attending school they also are bound by the truancy policy".

Service to eliminate

There are certain services which are offered in an attempt to eliminate truant behavior. Family Group Decision Making is a program contracted through the Childlren and Youth Office, however, is handled by a private agency. The concept is to bring family members, friends and social support together to develop a working plan to resolve the truancy issue.

Another program is Access Rebound Program which is offered through the Childlren and Youth to provide a one on one mentor and can offer in home services to the family.

Another firm is Day Treatment/Alternative Education offered by the Intermediate Unit and Children and Youth as a full time alternative education program for students who may have difficulty in the large school setting. Each school also has a Student Assistance Program comprised of a SAP team of school personnel and community providers that can offer assistance to a youth in the school setting.

Penalties

Citations issued through the Magisterial District Justice Office can be issued to both the student and the parent. Fines range up to $300 per offense.The truancy committee will be encouraging the local district judges to impose the highest amount possible and if the parents are issued a fine and fail to pay they face a jail sentence not to exceed five days.

Community service can be ordered by the district judge for both the parent and truant youth.

Suspension of driving privileges for the truant student can be imposed. Upon a first conviction the child's privalige for operating an automobile will be suspended 90 days, a second offense conviction brings a suspension of six months. Children who do not yet have a driver's license will be ineligible to apply for a license for the time periods of 90 days to six months depending on the sentence.

Parents who receive public welfare assistance face reduction from the state such amount the state considers appropriate from the payments made to the family.

Finally, once a youth is adjudicated dependent and attempts at engaging the child in a school program fail the agency can recommend to the court a weekend placement program. This program can be utilized for one weekend or as many as needed in order to encourage the student to attend school regularly. Students who are court ordered into a weekend placement program will be required to complete assignments provided by the school and in addition the youth will complete chores and any physical requirements of the program