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.