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November 27. 2012 8:58PM

Parents of Rochester kids who are chronically truant may face $1,000 fine

ROCHESTER - Parents of "chronically truant" students could be taken to court and made to pay up to a $1,000 fine - or take part in a four-hour program with their children.

The idea - proposed by police - came up at Monday's Special Services Committee meeting and will be discussed at the full school board's meeting next month.

James Gray, who serves as vice chair for the committee, said police brought the proposal to school officials as a way to deal with an increasing number of truant students - from kindergartners to seniors.

"The issue has been growing over the years," Gray said.

Since the beginning of the year, he said more than 500 students have already missed an "unreasonable" amount of school.

School Board Chairman Robert Watson, who is not a member of the Special Services Committee, said the idea is to encourage parents and their children to take part in the diversion program, and work together to address the problem.

"This is a first-of-its kind diversion program," Watson said, adding the board hopes to hear what parents think at its Dec. 13 meeting at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers, 150 Wakefield St.

If successful, Watson said, the program would allow officials to focus resources on students in class rather than those away from school.

"I know they don't want to go to school, but they are legally required to go," Watson said of truant students.

Gray said the program would focus on those students with the most unexcused absences, though it's possible "any unexcused absence" could be cause for concern.

Gray said both officials and parents have an obligation to ensure students receive an education, especially since statistics show high school graduates make more money, are more likely to stay out of jail and have more opportunities.

He stressed how the district, which also educates Wakefield high school students, has tried to provide alternative opportunities for students to complete their education, including programs at the Richard W. Creteau Regional Technology Center or Bud Carlson Academy.

For more information, visit www.rochesterschools.com.

jquinn@newstote.com

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