NEW CANEY – Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts is continuing his commitment to education in East Montgomery County using a variety of proven measures to combat truancy, ranging from an electronic monitoring program, to a trip to jail.
On Friday, Judge Metts had nine students arrested for contempt of court. Four students who were under the age of 17 went to the Montgomery County Juvenile Detention Center, but five others were transported to the Montgomery County Jail. Judge Metts said the measure was a last resort, and in many cases, the court’s last opportunity to guide students toward the right path.
“People of all ages have to understand actions have consequences and these students were given every opportunity to avoid learning this lesson the hard way,” Judge Metts said.
David Carson Mcelroy, 17 ; Ismael Anzaldua, 17; Andrew Douglas Pelczar, 17; Emily Anne Vanness, 17; and 17-year-old Daniel Salazar received an all expenses paid stay at Sheriff Tommy Gage’s Bed and Breakfast in Conroe, with transportation provided by the office of Pct. 4 Constable Kenneth “Rowdy” Hayden. The Constable personally escorted some of the teens.
Not all of the nine students were found in contempt of court for truancy. In one case of a habitually truant female student, the judge ordered her mother to attend school with her daughter. Both were in tears when Judge Metts gave the order, but they were free to leave. Unfortunately, the juvenile became belligerent, slamming the door of the courtroom as she left and was found in contempt and taken into custody.
Another teen’s behavior landed her behind bars when an officer saw her strike her mother after their case was heard and they walked out of the courtroom.
But it was not only teens that went to jail. The judge also ordered one parent arrested. Beverly Powell, 46, of New Caney was charged with contempt of court after repeatedly ignoring Judge Metts’ orders regarding her child’s truancy.
Conversely, another mother asked the judge for help. She was making sure her daughter attended school, but the girl tested positive for drugs. The judge asked the girl where she thought drugs would get her and told her if she continued on that path, she would not live to be very old.
The attendance issue was resolved and the mother was released from a court order to attend school with one of her daughters, but she requested further assistance from the court with her out of control 13 and 14-year- old daughters. The woman explained that she and her husband were recovering drug addicts and were hoping the county could recommend a program to prevent their children from suffering the same fate. Juvenile probation officers told Judge Metts they would assist the mother with a referral to the county’s Special Programs Unit.
The mom was released from attending school with her daughter and Judge Metts told the woman she had “earned his respect.”
Some of the students who were not repeat offenders were ordered to participate in the Attendance Improvement Management, or AIM program, which involves electronic monitoring and promotes responsible behavior. Since Judge Metts introduced the program to Montgomery County during the 2008-2009 school year, its success rate has been over 90 percent.
Other students were placed in the Montgomery County Juvenile Truancy Program.
Judge Metts is extremely proud of the success of all of the programs and initiatives his court has implemented in addressing the truancy issue, which is evident by the one-third drop in “fail to attend” filings in Precinct 4. His commitment to reducing truancy has drawn far more praise than criticism, including awards from Splendora and New Caney Independent School Districts.
“I want the children of Precinct 4 to attend school, so they have every opportunity to succeed in life,” Judge Metts said. “If they choose to do otherwise, there will be consequences.”