Home Visits To Check On Truant Students

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - As the school year gets underway, one district is reminding parents of the legal consequences for not sending their children to school.  You could be fined or sent to jail.

16-year-old Quaasia King and her friends know the importance of being in school everyday.

King, a Petersburg High School senior, will be the first in her family to graduate high school.

"My mom is a single parent and I just want to see her smile. I want a good future," said King.

Some of her classmates don't share the same enthusiasm. Since the start of the new school year, police have visited 70 homes with a history of truancy concerns.

The school district is reminding parents that if your child has excessive school absences, you could get a home visit.

"It was like a friendly reminder to parents to say -- we understand your child had excessive absences last school year. We just want to make sure we get off to a good start this school year," said Dr. Ann Ford, Student Services Coordinator for Petersburg Public Schools.

By law, a student is considered truant after seven unexcused absences. But before those missed days pile-up, the school district gets involved.

After three unexcused absences, a warning letter is sent home to parents.

The fifth unexcused absence results in a conference with the parents to develop an improvement plan.

The sixth unexcused absence triggers another meeting between parents and the school.

The seventh unexcused absence can result in the school filing a child in need petition against the child and/or parent.  The pair could end up in court.

Lt. Wills, with the Petersburg Police Department,  has done many of the home visits this year.  He always asks one specific question.

"Is the child at home or in school.  If the child is home we offer him a ride to school," said Wills.

The goal is to keep students off the streets and in the classroom where they can learn, he added.

Citizens are also being asked to join the effort to help students have regular attendance.

You can call the police non-emergency line when you see a school-age student who's not in the classroom during school hours.

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