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Updated: 02/15/2017 08:30:02AM

More watchful eyes needed

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Truancy is an age old problem for school districts across the nation, but Highlands County’s current school district administrations is vamping up its efforts to improve school attendance … especially among high school students.

While following the state truancy laws, the district is trying to find “creative ways to make our parents realize how important school is.” According to Student Services Director Marcia Davis, therein lies a big part of the problem – some “parents don’t think education is important so they just don’t bring their kids to school.”

Florida Statue 1003.26: Enforcement of school attendance begins by saying the Legislature finds that poor academic performance is associated with non-attendance and that school districts must take an active role in promoting and enforcing attendance as a means of improving student performance. Furthermore, it states that early intervention in school attendance is the most effective way of producing good attendance habits that will lead to improved student learning and achievement.

This is where a parent’s influence can have a major impact.

As parents, we are given the gift of a child and with that gifts comes a lot of responsibilities, one of which is making sure that child receives an education, which leads to success as an adult.

If our children are not getting to school on time, are leaving early, or are just completely absent, they aren’t getting an education. Once in a while is one thing, but making it a consistent habit is something altogether different.

At the elementary level, 14.8 percent of the students missed 10.5 day or more of school since the beginning of this school year through Jan. 31. At the middle school, the percentage jumped to 18 percent. The number nearly doubles when looking at the high school level – at a staggering 33.7 percent.

Some schools are offering rewards for students with good attendance and those who are improving their attendance. More ways to fight the problem are being sought and will be discussed Feb. 20 when the school board meets to give some principals an opportunity to explain how they are trying to reduce absences.

Lake Placid Police Chief James Fansler has already pledged to have his officers pay parents a visit if they learn of a child who is skipping school or not attending as he/she should be.

We can expect more from law enforcement. Joining in that initial meeting with school district officials were also representatives from the Sebring Police Department, the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office. All of who have vowed to help battle this problem.

Realistically, they know that parents of younger children are ultimately responsible for getting them to school. Some of that responsibility with older children, especially those older than 16, lies with the student himself or herself. Once they are old enough to drive, most of them are driving themselves to school and the parents may not know if they don’t make it. That’s where school administration gets involved by making parents aware of attendance concerns.

It’s an issue that everyone needs to chime in on. The community needs to get involved and report problems. With the community’s involvement, law enforcement will know where to find the offenders and the school district will have a better handle on what needs to be done.

Mark your calendar now, and plan to attend the Feb. 20 school board meeting. Don’t be late. It’s a conversation you won’t want to miss.

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