Combating Truancy and Untruths

From the desk of  Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts

As we continue to combat the truancy problem in Precinct 4, a disturbing trend is increasing. More and more parents of truant students have begun coming into court stating they plan to “home school” their children, but failing to do so. I have nothing against the practice of home schooling. It can be very successful when handled properly and is a better alternative for some families.

However, home schooling is not for everyone and it is certainly no way to avoid penalties for poor attendance. Home schooling requires more responsibility on the part of the student and more supervision on the part of the parent, along with the expense of the program. Some families learn that the hard way and their children return to public school. Either way is fine, as long as the student is receiving an education. Finding the way that works best is up to the family, but a way must be found.

Unfortunately, an increasing number of people are standing before me, falsely claiming they are home schooling their kids, or stating they have chosen that alternative without realizing those lies will have consequences. I tell each and every parent who says they have chosen home school they must return and prove their enrollment and show me the curriculum. When they fail to do so, they are held accountable.

In some cases, the students pressure their parents into agreeing to home schooling, not realizing the requirements or the rules, including that the student remain at home during school hours, since that has become their school. If they are caught roaming the streets and those sorts of things during the school day, there will also be consequences.

This is not something I do to be mean. My concern is for the children’s futures and without a high school diploma, statistics show their futures are probably bleak. As I’ve stated repeatedly, many of the inmates in Texas prisons today had their first interaction with the criminal justice system as juveniles who failed to attend school. A high school diploma does not guarantee success in life, but it provides a foundation and removes what can be a major stumbling block on the road to success.

If there are extenuating circumstances relating to attendance, I am always willing to listen and my staff and I will do whatever we can to help guide families in the right direction. Every situation is different, and that is why each student and parent or guardian has the opportunity to appear in court and explain why they are not receiving a proper education when it is offered at no cost to them.

I would like to see each and every student in Precinct 4 receive a high school diploma, and there is no reason that cannot happen.

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  1. Tammi Bodenhamer

    I wonder what Judge Mett’s level of concern is for those students who are swept up in his bid to rid Precinct 4 of its truancy problem. I am also planning to home school my children. One reason is because of the harsh treatment of students due to the attendance policy.
    I have a student who is on AB Honor Roll, has received several school awards this year, was recognized for her test scores last year and this year, who is graduating a year early, and who is in battle with the school over being absent. Well, not actually absent, just late to class.
    How is that possible? Well apparently, if you are more than 15 minutes late for class you are absent. Where else in society does this lesson present itself so that our children become “successful”, nowhere. If you are 15 minutes late to work, are you not paid for that day? If you are 15 minutes for church, do they lock you out? If you are 15 minutes late for a hair appointment do they shave your head? Silly, I know, but so is this.
    My daughter has worked very hard in school and she is graduating a whole year early. Does anyone care? No. Even the school representative that was in attendance at court said it did not matter because she had no record of it. My daughter was court ordered to attend school in February and after successfully completing the AIM Program I thought we were done with all of this drama. Unfortunately my daughter went to the nurse’s office one day and was marked absent in third period for being more than 15 minutes late upon her return to class. Again, unfortunately for my daughter she stayed after class to help a teacher clean up and was 15 minutes late to class and marked absent. One more time she was late to class and was marked absent, this time for having gone to school with an already upset stomach (the NCISD attendance policy encourages you to sent them to school with no signs of illness even if they feel bad. How often do you start to feel bad but don’t really get ill until later in the day? Every time usually), spending time in the restroom. What is my point to all of this?
    I personally talked to the attendance office and New Caney ISD’s Community Liaison, Mrs. Burton. In the beginning and was assured that after the initial problem that if anything else arose I would be contacted so that I could handle the situation BEFORE it was too late (like the first time, when I was shown a letter that I never received stating my daughter was in violation of the attendance policy). She made a show of writing my cell phone number down and walking me out of her office. I now realize she was just trying to get an angry parent out of her office. You did a great job connecting with the community Mrs. Burton. Did I get a call? Did the attendance office ever let me know there was a problem when I was at the school repeatedly? Nope.
    I went to the school and tried to resolve these issues and there is no one who cares. If it is in the computer, it HAS to be right. I can prove that their attendance system is flawed and that there are numerous errors. From the teachers to the administrators no one is accountable to me, the parent for an answer to my questions about why my child is considered absent if in the nurse’s office or kept after class by the teacher. They point out attendance is a state law. It was made apparent to me by an assistant principal that the school has no control over attendance. Nor do they have concern for students who are being targeted as attendance problems. He did tell me he did not believe my child has a problem to the extent that many others do.

    Now that my daughter has had “her first interaction with the criminal justice system for failing to attend school” Judge Metts suggests that I can look forward to her long criminal history. She devistated and does not understand why this is happening to her. She did what she was supposed to do. She got a note from the nurse stating she was in the office on the day in question for that. She also got a note from her other teacher stating that she indeed did have a pass for class on the second day. On the third, well we have all been there. There are no words defending stomach problems to a teacher in front of your classmates.
    Again, what is my point? My daughter was just ARRESTED today by Judge Metts. She will spend three days in jail for NOTHING. Did she commit a crime? No, she was in contempt of court. Jail, a place I had hoped she would never go. A place I never dreamed she would go for being late to class. Oh, one more thing, when she is in jail tomorrow (Friday) guess what, she will be missing school. Oh and today and the previous court day, guess when they were? On school days! (the NCISD attendance policy states all appointments should be made after school and on the weekends)
    Judge Metts, you have caused my daughter to miss three days of school as well. I am sure there is a political answer you can give me that deems you making her absent acceptable while the other times were not, but seriously, think about it.
    Your court is bringing all of these kids up and treating them and their parents (who I hope are all registered voters) like criminals. Sitting in your courtroom for over 9 hours at a time, four of which you were not even there for. Hundreds of people on the docket squished into your little lobby with nowhere to sit. Starting your 10AM docket at after 2PM, elbow to elbow. Where else in life does this lesson present itself for our children to learn a lesson? Nowhere. If any one of us were to approach our careers in the way you are doing it we would be out of work in no time. I guess that is a benefit of being an elected official.
    Look I am sure you are a nice guy and all of that I see your pictures holding a nice gun and a quilt for the auction, but that doesn’t change the fact that you just put a 17 year old in jail for NO unexcused absences. I am sure she will learn a lot from this lesson.

  2. ricky adams

    I went to school with judge Metts and he is right about people home schooling for the wrong reason. I have 4 boys all were home schooled the last one is 17. He has a curriculum to do and does his school work,but he can be done with a days worth of school work in 3 hrs. He also plays high school baseball on a home school team in the area that has him out and about during school hrs. Also if he wants to go to south Texas hunting as long as he does the week school work I let him go.Responsibility should go to the parent and not the state of Texas. We have been home schooling for over 20 years and the boys are doing fine.

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