Gary School Children Miss Class, Parents Get Assignment
October 23, 2013 — Skipping school can be a crime for some people who aren’t even in school. The City of Gary is trying to keep students from being absent by holding parents accountable.
Parents of Gary schoolchildren have a new authority to answer to: the Gary City Court.
This week, city officials introduced a beefed up the Gary city truancy program, “Project Rebuild.”
Now, parents of students with ten unexcused absences can be charged with failure to educate, a class B misdemeanor. If those parents choose to not take all court-ordered classes, they can face fines or up to 180 days in Lake County Jail.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson says, “It’s not a desire to put everybody in jail, but we will if we have to. It’s not a desire to be punitive; it is a desire to be supportive.”
Debra Morrow says the support is needed. She went through the program as a volunteer after her niece started skipping school, “Even though you don’t know you need support, but you do need support. So, we went every Wednesday and Friday, and we got to the point that we was racing to get there! We couldn’t wait to get to class and talk to other parents. It was really just a nice thing to do.”
Statistics show chronic truancy is linked to many social problems, including substance abuse, poverty and higher crime rates.
Gary City Court Judge Pro tem Inga Lewis-Shannon says, “We want our community to come together, and if you see a kid out, they’re doing something they’ shouldn’t do, please report them.”
They want parents to get involved, so judges don’t have to.
Educators and court officials remind parents that this program applies to every parent in Gary schools: public, private and charter.
By Hilary Powell