An Honor Truancy


Truancy and Honor?

Last week it made big news that an honor student was jailed in Texas for missing 18 days of school while working two jobs to support her fractured family. Teachers in high poverty schools know that many of the students who are missing from their class are either enabled by their parents from lack of respect for education or are actually doing their parent’s work by taking care of their siblings. In many cases for some families it is an economic survival decision for students to miss school. Many families cannot afford day care, the time off to care for a sick child or even for that matter the time to be sick themselves. Many parents face a true Hobson’s Choice on a daily or weekly basis over these issues. In our zero tolerance society because no one wants to think or take responsibility we get laws like the law in Texas and other states that set mandatory limits and sentences that turn what should be a thought process into a travesty.

It at first glance seems hard to explain why the honor student in Texas was jailed for missing 18 days of school, roughly 10 percent of the school days in a year. It may however be even harder to explain why a student working two jobs and missing that much school is an honor student. I have several questions about this issue that keep running through my head.

#1 Why does it matter that she is an honor student and would this story have made the papers if it was a gang-banger who had been sentenced for truancy?

#2 How is it that she could miss around 10-15 percent of the school days and still be an honor student? Is she that smart or the curriculum that weak?

# 3 If she was not jailed in accordance with state law, and there were lots of reasons why she shouldn’t have been even though state law seems clear on the matter. Would the judge who handed down the ruling be overturned on appeal under due process and equal protection limitations. Overturned for not suspending an honor student but continuing to suspend non-honor students for truancy? Incidentally many states have the same type of law as Texas but in some it is the parents who are jailed not the student.

#4 Ask a teacher who they catch first when they make any hard and fast classroom rules with unbendable criteria and absolute punishments. Chances are they will tell you that they almost always don’t catch the student(s) the rules were aimed at instead catching a student who rarely does anything wrong. State legislatures who make laws like this and school administrators who enforce them have apparently either failed to learn or forgotten this salient fact.

#5 Does zero tolerance equal zero thought and does zero thought too often equal zero justice?

Clearly no one thought this out or made any real attempt to solve the problem before it got to the court. Instead person after person and agency after agency took the easy, zero tolerance, letter of the law way out that required no thought, no feelings, and no brain. A path that not surprisingly ended up in a cold, unrealistic and brainless result.

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About safrisri

I have been a teacher since 1971 and have taught at all educational levels from pre-school to college. My college degree is general science which I arrived at after 5 years and 5 different majors. A degree as it turns out, almost as valuable and in demand as one in Neo-Bulgarian Mythology. I have been around education for around 40 years and can remember when teaching was a pleasant, happy and creative job and our schools were the same. My writings will reflect on my past mistakes and successes and what my students have taught me about education.
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One Response to An Honor Truancy

  1. thelastgasp1 says:

    No leadership coupled with lack of “common sense” equals taking the path of least resistance!!

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