HOPEWELL, VA (WWBT) - As the new school year gets going there's a push to tackle truancy in Hopewell.
School leaders are reminding parents of the legal consequences for not sending their children to school. Parents could be fined -- even jailed. School leaders say if students aren't in class - they can't learn.
There are 180 days in the school year. In Hopewell, if a student has 3 unexcused days of school a letter is sent home to the child's parent. Five unexcused absences triggers a call to the child's house from an attendance officer.
"Once a child reaches 7 days and there's no improvement in their attendance we call a meeting. If we have parents that continue after we've gone through the process -- they're on a plan and not meeting goals the next step is to get in touch with the courts," said Sandra Morton, Principal of Harry E. James Elementary School in Hopewell.
A total of 50 parents were charged and summoned to court last school year for failing to send their child to school -- that's a number school leaders say they want to cut this school year.
Ann Brinkley has two kids in Hopewell Public Schools; an 8th grader and an 11th grader. She admits they've had unexcused absences in the past and she's gotten warning notices from the school.
"I went in and I talked to them," said Brinkley. She adds her kids are now in school daily.
"I make them go to school unless they're sick, so they can better themselves," said Brinkley.
And school leaders say that's what it's all about.
"They need to be at school because they're developing a habit that will last them a lifetime and part of that is being a responsible citizen," said Morton.
If a student decides to ditch school without permission the school system can file a petition in court against that student.
School leaders say they will always work with parents to ensure a child is in school every day and that going to court is a last resort.