600 Knox County Parents Called to Truancy Meeting

Knoxville (WVLT) - If your child is caught skipping school in Knox County, there are major consequences, not just for your child. One includes being taken by authorities to the new truancy center. This year, that's at the Moses Teen Center operated by the Boys and Girls Club. There, truant students are evaluated and returned to parents or sent to juvenile detention depending on the severity of the case.

But how do you avoid being sent there in the first place?

Volunteer TV's Whitney Daniel has the answer.

The answer is simple: Don't skip school, and if you're a parent: Don't let your child skip school. The district attorney's office says there are no excuses. That's because in Knox County, they've built in a margin of error, allowing ten days un-excused absences. State law only allows five.

"We got a note saying we had to come or go to jail," parent Robin Dunn said.

That's how serious the situation is. From May 16th until now, more than 600 Knox County students have missed ten more more days unexcused.

"We do mean what we say, and we're gonna follow the law and if you live in Knox County, you're gonna send your child to school or else," Knox County district attorney Randy Nichols said.

Since 1998, the district attorney's office in Knox County has sent 12,316 letters to parents about their truant children. But in reality:

"We're only having to deal harshly with only one-half of one-percent of the people we're talking with. That gives me encouragement," Nichols said.

That encouragement is met with a strict hand warning parents and kids that missing more days means appearing in court before a truancy review board.

"We explore all the problems the family's having and present them with solutions that they have to take advantage of to stop the truancy," community prosecution coordinator Rhonda Garren said.

"It wasn't that she just missed them, she doesn't lay out of school. I just didn't send notes. I didn't figure being in high school she had to everyday send a note," parent Donna Cardwell said.

And many parents say their kids have legitimate excuses. Robin Dunn says her son had double-pneumonia and doctor's notes.

-<19:39 Robin Dunn/SON ATTENDS NORTHWEST MIDDLE>- "That's why they have the policy to miss and you can have a doctor's excuse to miss and make-up those days," parent Robin Dunn said.

"And you had those?" Whitney asked.

"Yes, we did," Robin said.

Tuesday's meeting was also a chance to clear up any mistakes the school system may have made with missing doctor's notes, transportation issues, misrecording of absences. However, for those who didn't have a valid excuse, continued absences can lead to charges.

Parents are held accountable for kids ages 15 and younger who miss school. You could face up to 11months and 29 days in jail and a stiff fine, and if you're a student just skipping school, listen up. Over the past eight years, the DA's office has charged three times as many teens as parents. For ages 15 or older, you the student are responsible for your actions and could face probation, juvenile court or juvenile detention.