Viewpoint: August 19, 2009

As a new school year gets underway, it is our hope that a new plan will deal with a problem that some principals have complained about for decades, truancy. District Attorney Hillar Moore says truancy is a top priority and he is ready to deal with it.

Moore says this school year, if a student has five unexcused absences, a misdemeanor summons will be issued to the child's parents and the matter will be handled in district court. If you are a parent and expect your child to be responsible, then you must be a responsible parent.

It is incumbent on you as a parent to be sure you are up in the morning and preparing your child for the school day. Law enforcement believes a lower truancy rate will mean lower crime rates. Last year, 56% of the crimes committed by juveniles in the parish occurred during school hours and half of those crimes were the work of children with high truancy rates.

Hopefully, Baton Rouge will establish a truancy center, a one-stop shop aimed at serving families with truant children. Roxson Welch, educational coordinator from the mayor's office, says truancy is a symptom of a much bigger issue and needs to be addressed by focusing on the family, not just the child. Ms. Welch, we agree. It is definitely a problem we can no longer ignore.