Fayette schools crack down on unexcused student absences


Officials in Fayette County, both in the school district and in law enforcement, are doing their due diligence to make sure students show up for class.

Daily police reports during the past week from different agencies in the county contain nearly a dozen separate incidents related to students at three different schools being declared in violation of the Georgia Compulsory School Attendance Law.

Reports with the Peachtree City Police Department indicate three cases of truancy involving Booth Middle School students, one of whom missed 25 days and two others who missed 18 days between last August and the end of March. A student at McIntosh High School is reported to have missed 17 days between late September and mid-February.

Fayetteville Police Department reports show four students from Cleveland Elementary School being investigated for truancy.

How does a student reach the point that law enforcement is involved?

Documents furnished by Fayette County Public Schools show that the school board put a specific set of steps in place before this point.

The board’s printed policy states, “Any parent/guardian or other person who has control of any child who on the tenth unexcused day of absence per semester, and after the child’s school system has notified the parent/guardian, or other person who has control of any child, of each day’s absence from school, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and court action may be pursued for formal intervention.”

The potential penalties include a fine of $25-100, imprisonment up to 30 days, community service, or any combination of the three as determined at the discretion of the court.

To keep it from getting that far, school district officials notify the parent, guardian or appropriate authority figure when a student has five unexcused absences in a semester. That notice outlines the penalty and consequences for those absences and that each subsequent absence constitutes a separate offense.

After two reasonable attempts at notification, the school district will send written notice via first class mail or certified mail with return receipt requested. This will happen before any attempt at judicial proceedings, according to a school district report.

Schools are required to provide information about compulsory attendance at the start of the school year, and parents or guardians are asked to sign a statement indicating that they have been informed. This is also done by the students themselves once they reach ten years of age.

School resource officers are key players in keeping track of student attendance violations, according to a police spokesperson. These officers get information from the school and generate the paperwork from there.

Typically the issue is resolved with only a phone call. An SRO will inquire as to whether the child has been sick for an unusual length of time or if the parent is the problem and not being responsible to see that the child gets to school.

Overall, “we really don’t see [truancy complaints] too much,” the spokesman noted.