OPSO Cracking Down on Truancy Problems

OUACHITA PARISH, LA -- Students missing school is a huge problem in Ouachita Parish, according to the sheriff's department. They say last year over a quarter of the students skipped more than five days of school.

Earl Henry, the OPSO Truancy Officer, says,"We received more than 5,000 truancy referrals from the Ouachita Parish School System. There are only 19,000 kids in the system."

There is a truancy task force in place to attempt to put a dent in this issue.

"Here is the problem, lets get it fixed. We started working with the school system, the judges, and the DA. We came up with a good plan and now its being put into action," says Henry. 

The sheriff's department says five unexcused absences or tardies from students can result in a truancy charge for parents since they are responsible for making sure their kids aren't skipping school.

"You are either getting a citation, the parents will, or we will take the kid to court," says Henry. 

Truancy students could be taken to live in a group home until their 18th birthday while parents could face jail time.

Hon. Sharon Marchman, a Fourth District Court Judge, says,"The DA has the option of charges against the parents. Each count of truancy is punishable with 30 days in jail plus a $250 fine or both."

The task force believes keeping kids in school could reduce future crime in the community.

"If a kid is in school where they need to be then they are not out roaming the streets getting into stuff they shouldn't be. With an education in the future, when they graduate or get a GED, move on to college then they aren't out trying to break the law to make money," says Henry. 

The school systems have programs in place to help keep kids in class.

The sheriff's department adds the truancy task force is available to help parents who are struggling to keep their kids on the right track.

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