EAST MONTGOMERY COUNTY – Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts sent four teens to jail for contempt of court this week, following court sessions that addressed truancy issues, but in the end highlighted another major problem. Truancy court is split into three sessions for the school districts in Precinct 4, which are Splendora ISD, New Caney ISD and a portion of Conroe ISD.

One student ignored a court order to attend school or have a verifiable excuse, which has become commonplace. However, three other students with prior histories of failure to attend added to their troubles when they tested positive for drugs. Among those who failed a drug test was 17-year-old April Ketchback, who was obviously impaired in the courtroom; David Royce Shoemaker, Jr. 17, of Porter; and 17-year-old Tennyson Bryan Smith of Humble.

Pct. 4 Deputy Constables removed the trio from the courtroom in handcuffs. All four students are charged with contempt of court were sentenced to 72 hours in the Montgomery County Jail, which began immediately and cannot be cut short by posting bond.

“I don’t enjoy sending 17 and 18-year-olds to jail, but if that’s what it takes to get their attention before they progress to offenses with more serious consequences, I’ll continue to do so,” Judge Metts said.

“Unfortunately, the three students who tested positive for drugs already appear to be headed for more trouble, but I hope this visit to the county jail will turn that around,” he said. “They have three days of harsh reality to think about whether that’s what they want from life.”

Other truant students received various fines and verbal warnings depending on how many times they had been cited. All who appeared were court ordered to attend school and told that failure to do so can result in more serious actions, such as in some extreme repeat offender cases that have resulted in parents being court ordered to attend school with their children.

A representative of the Attendance Improvement Management, or “AIM” program was on hand and 22 students were ordered into that program, which is a positive alternative to the ankle monitors sometimes used to combat truancy. Judge Metts was the first Montgomery County Justice of the Peace to try the program, which has been very successful and is used increasingly throughout the state.

Montgomery County Juvenile Probation officers, school district police, and other school officials were also involved in the process, which the Judge calls a “collaborative effort.”

“We’re all working toward the same goal,” Judge Metts said. “We want to do everything possible to help these students graduate from high school and become productive, law abiding citizens.”

“That is not to say anyone who fails to earn a high school diploma will be a failure or a burden to society, but statistics certainly show it’s much more difficult, and most of these kids have no idea how their actions today can affect their future.”

Pct. 4 Constable Kenneth “Rowdy” Hayden is also part of the judge’s efforts to combat truancy and observed some of the court sessions where his deputies serve as bailiffs along with transporting those arrested to jail.

“I support the judge’s efforts to reduce truancy in East Montgomery County,” Constable Hayden said. “The numbers don’t lie – the truancy rate is steadily decreasing here.”

“I look at juvenile crime not only from a law enforcement perspective, but also as a father who wants to see my own children succeed,” he said. “Every child deserves a chance, but some of them need a little extra guidance, and the Judge’s office and my agency will continue to do everything we can to help.”

Ketchback Shoemaker.Smith