Texas Decriminalizes Truancy

Good news from the Lone Star State


Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signed a law decriminalizing truancy, the AP reports:

"Truants AND aliens? That's TWO strikes here in Texas, buddy!"

A longstanding Texas law that has sent about 100,000 students a year to criminal court—and some to jail—for missing school is off the books…

Opponents of the previous law said the threat of a heavy fine—up to $500, plus court costs—and a criminal record was not keeping children in school and was sending those who could not pay into a criminal justice system spiral.

Under that law, students as young as 12 could be ordered to court if they had three unexcused absences in four weeks. Schools were required to file a misdemeanor failure to attend school charge against students with more than 10 unexcused absences in six months. Unpaid fines landed some students behind bars when they turned 17.

As I said the last time I wrote about this bill, it is both unjust and ridiculous to treat truancy as a criminal matter. Or as Walter Olson put it in a broader look at truancy crackdowns around the country:

The criminal penalties, combined with the serious consequences that can follow non-payment of civil penalties, are now an important component of what has been called carceral liberalism: we're finding ever more ways to menace you with imprisonment, but don't worry, it's for your own good. Yet jailing parents hardly seems a promising way to stabilize the lives of wavering students.

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    1. When you think about it, Superman was an illegal immigrant.

      1. Was? Try is.

        Also, where’s the Martian Manhunter’s visa?

        1. Jesus. The Prez Rickard administration has just been one fuck up after another.

        2. I hear he’s an american express kind of guy anyway…

        3. Actually, Superman was adopted by the Kents, so he qualifies as a citizen.

          The Martian Manhunter has no such excuse, though.

      2. I always suspected that “truth, justice, and the American way” stuff was just a front. I mean, why do you think he built the Fortress of Solitude in Antarctica? Privacy? Or to dodge the enormous property taxes?

        1. Don’t forget that tax haven, the Watchtower, in low Earth orbit.

        2. I believe it was in the Arctic Circle somewhere, likely in Canada.

          1. Finally I’ve stumbled upon the reason I always thought Superman was garbage: He’s really canadian.

      3. surely you mean illegal alien

    2. I liked the Alt-Text as well, although I suppose an argument could be tha Zigi and Zagi, as their names imply, aren’t exactly straight, so that could be three strikes against them in many parts of Texas..

      1. Oh, Zigi and Zagi just need some Adderall.

  1. But how are the public schools going to get their money if we allow people to opt out?

    Why do you hate public education, Jesse?

    1. My local school district is “Basic Aid” under CA state guidelines, and not subject to the mean daily attendance funding formula. They get their money no matter what. If less students start showing up, they’ll just build a new gym and computer lab.

    2. They still get paid. People who take their kids out still pay for the schools- they’ll just have to fudge the $$ per kid number a bit.

  2. It’s a crime to fail to report to a minimum security prison.

  3. Fewer chances for Lone Star kids to be exposed to the theory of evolution.

  4. How much of a drop would a hangman need to snap that truant officer’s scrawny neck?

    I figure 4 feet.

    Of course I write hyperbolically about a fictional, non-existent cartoonish fictional representation of a class of horrible public officials on whom I am entitled to comment, purely as hyperbole, on a matter of public concern under my First Amendment rights to free speech and to petition the Government for redress of grievances.

    No woodchippers were fired up during the writing of this comment.

    1. But what will we do with all those woodchippers?

      1. Keep them well maintained. Make sure you are very skilled in their use. Be ready for the day you hear the cry

        “To your woodchippers, O Reasonoids! To your woodchippers!”

  5. Texas has very liberal homeschooling laws: we don’t even have to report to some state authority that we are homeschooling. How, then, are children being thrown in jail for truancy? Can’t the parents just say they are being homeschooled?

    1. They could. The problem occurs for kids that are attending public school, but often skip class (for whatever reason). Parents might not even be aware until much later in the process.

      1. Fuck, I used to skip class to go to the library to learn. I don’t need to be doing algebra with dimwits in 8th grade, thanks for the offer.

        1. We skipped class to go to the beach. I mean, it’s right there, demanding our attendance.

          1. we skipped class to eat fast food, smoke cigarettes and hang out- like all healthy teens.

            1. Too bad you didn’t have a beach.

    2. In 6th grade, my son had a surgical procedure and missed a few days of school.

      Then he caught a head cold from hell and missed 1.5 weeks of school with a fever and a bottle of codeine laced cough syrup.

      In all he missed 14 days of school by the time Feb rolled around.

      And I got a letter from his school, robosigned by his principal. And it told me they were investigating his absences and if he was found truant they might forward his info to the Middlesex DA’s office for prosecution in juvenile court.

      Now, the good news is:
      1) I can read well, and understood the implications of the letter.
      2) I had documented everything and all the absences had been discussed with his peditrician (this was buttcovering for the divorce court and my never ending custody dispute with my ex – kid with a fever of 101 and a runny nose is not going to school and no doctor is needed to figure out that he is sick)
      3) I had emailed his teachers and the admin office regarding each absence.

      1. So I dashed off a nastygram to the pricnipal’s office full of passive aggressive advice to assist them with their investigation (all pointing to records or people working in the principal’s office that she could talk to/read). The nasty gram was purposefully crafted to give the impression to the outside reader that I was communicating with people who could be very lazy, but should be given the benefit of the doubt since their incompetence might be the result of abject stupidity.

        It was the last I heard of the matter.

        However, if I hadn’t answered, there’s a good chance I could have found myself sitting on a bench in the Framingham Juvenile Court with my son, perusing the lovely posters intended to entice teenage girls who were being forced to prostitute themselves to ask for help from DCF, with relaxed protections for my son since it wasn’t a criminal charge my kid was facing but merely an allegation of “delinquency”.

  6. “…..we’re finding ever more ways to menace you with imprisonment, but don’t worry, it’s for your own good. Yet jailing parents hardly seems a promising way to stabilize the lives of wavering students.”

    Why would you think that any of those are the goals or intentions here?

    Schools are primarily indoctrination and compliance centers. Any actual education that occurs is secondary and mostly unintentional.

    1. Reading your Dewey, I see.

      1. Or Horace Mann

        1. Do not be ashamed to die until you have shown one uppity Irish ape-man his proper place in society.

          1. Society or sobriety?

            Oh wait. You are talking about the Irish (of which I am one).

            1. Scots Irish or the regular kind?

              1. scots irish or scotch irish?

                Is the second a weird and horrible blend of whiskey?

  7. Or as Walter Olson put it in a broader look at truancy crackdowns around the country:

    Walter Olsen is right!

  8. My wife asks if I remembered to send the doctor’s note with my son. I tel her know. She says, “Then they won’t excuse the absence!” I say, what the fuck are they going to do to us? She says, “Nothing, I guess.” I say, see how well they’ve got you trained! She cries.

    1. I haven’t been day drinking! It just got out of budget session, that’s what I typed like a moron.

  9. My mom told me that during her senior year of high school she and a friend skipped school and went shopping with my grandmother and one of her friends. The two women wanted to sit and chat at lunch so my mom and her friend went into a store without them and promptly got caught my a truant officer. My mother was kicked out of the National Honor Society, was stripped from being the class valedictorian and had a scholarship offer rescinded. Mom always told me that as long as I kept my grades up, and let her know, that I could cut whenever I wanted. Punishing a student who doesn’t want to be at school doesn’t make them suddenly want to go and punishing a good student for the occasional day off ignores the fact that the student isn’t causing any problems for the school.

  10. I took my daughter out of school one day. “Personal family matter,” I said. I told my kid not to tell anyone that the personal family matter involved Swedish massage, mani-pedis, and Baskin-Robbins.

  11. I cut my last class in 8th grade every day for 6 months. I was amazed that when I got my report card, I got an “A” in that class despite never having physically graced the classroom with my presence. Of course, it was one of the types of schools (urban San Francisco) where all you need to do to get an “A” is not assault the teacher.

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