Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts jailed 13 students, 1 parent, and 1 spectator on Thursday during an all day “Fail to Attend” court. The students who went to jail were in contempt of court after missing additional schooldays after Judge Metts court ordered them, most of them repeatedly, to attend school unless they had proof of a valid reason to be absent.
Valid reasons include an excuse from a doctor’s office, but one mother apparently got creative and produced what the judge said was obviously an altered note. The woman acted confused when the judge confronted her and told her she may face felony charges. He ordered her taken into custody along with the children and he scolded her.
A 20-year-old spectator became angry at the bailiff when he was asked to step outside the courtroom and tuck in his shirt. He disrupted court by swiftly kicking the door as he left still refusing to tuck in his shirt. Just like those found in contempt of court for disobeying the judge’s order to attend school, the angry spectator was ordered to spend 72 hours in the Montgomery County Jail.
The court included truant students from Conroe ISD, Splendora ISD and New Caney ISD. Not everyone left in handcuffs. In fact, a few were met with rounds of applause from the entire courtroom when they presented their diplomas or GED certificates, having complied with the judge’s orders.
Christopher Rodriguez was the first to present his diploma to an exuberant courtroom and a smiling judge.
“This is what it’s all about,” Judge Metts said. “If Christopher Rodriguez can do it, you can too.”
Rodriguez left smiling with his head held high, as did the others who met their goals and hoped they would not find themselves before a judge again. The judge later said he was extremely pleased to see the progress Rodriguez and others had made since they first appeared in his court as truant students.
“I don’t like to send kids to jail, and I don’t like to send parents to school,” Judge Metts said, “This is what I like – seeing young people get back on the right path – that’s why we’re here.”
The judge further stated some people do not approve of his methods, but “it’s hard to argue with success.”
Judge Metts has been recognized for his contribution to dramatically improving the attendance rates in Splendora ISD and New Caney ISD.