Bill aims to lessen consequences for truancy - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: newswest9.com |

Bill aims to lessen consequences for truancy

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AMARILLO - The Texas Senate approved a bill Thursday that would significantly change the consequences for missing school.

"Failure to attend school" is a class C misdemeanor in the state of Texas, but Canyon High School freshman Cheyenne Hodges says she couldn't help missing two months of school this year.

"I have panhypopituitarism, hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia and all that has to get checked regularly or I could get really sick," Hodges said.

Hodges has not yet been summoned to court, but says school administrators have threatened to charge her with truancy.

"It's not like I go skip school weeks at a time. I miss because of my health," Hodges said.

It's students like Cheyenne that Senate Bill 1234 aims to protect.

The measure would require school districts to assign counselors or provide mentoring services to students who miss school before they're sent to court.

But Amarillo Independent School District Attendance Investigator Laurie Grady says many districts, including AISD, already do that, and the rules aren't there to harass students like Cheyenne, but to keep problematic students in the classroom.

"State law states that you have to be in school 90% of the time, so once they hit 10% of that, kids can be held back and we so we try to catch them before they hit that 10%," Grady said.

Grady referred 854 students to court for truancy last year,  207 of those students were charged a second time, 70 a third time, and 18 a fourth time.

The class C misdemeanor charge is dropped from one's permanent record for first time offenders in Potter and Randall counties.

Court fees and fines can add up to $500, but the proposed law would reduce the maximum cost to $100.

"If 500 dollars doesn't do the job, with just 100 dollars, they're not going to care," Grady said.

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