MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

March 22, 2010

Municipal Court speeds up truancy cases

Truancy cases at Hilldale and Muskogee Public Schools could clear more quickly now that they’re handled in Municipal Court.

And students are paying attention, said Muskogee Public Schools Police Chief Dan Hall.

“It’s the most conversation students are having now,” Hall said. “They are wondering what’s going to happen when they stay home another day. They are taking it more seriously.”

The Muskogee City Council agreed Feb. 8 to authorize the city attorney to try juvenile truants in Municipal Court, as provided under an existing agreement the city had with the district attorney and District Court. In the past, parents of truants were tried in District Court, a process which took up to six months, according to Assistant City Attorney Roy Tucker.

“With the city, we can get to it within two weeks, and that’s on the long end,” Tucker said.

He said the city already has prosecuted 20 to 25 cases in the six weeks since the council made the agreement. One student had missed a first-hour class 47 times, he said.

The city prosecutes truancy cases at MPS and Hilldale, as well as private schools, Tucker said. He said the city has not approached private schools such as St. Joseph Catholic School. The city also not yet approached Oklahoma School for the Blind, a public school operated through the Department of Rehabilitation Services.

Tucker said city’s truancy ordinance has been part of the city code since 1993, but had not been enforced by the city.

Students are referred to the Municipal Court if they miss four days within a four-week period, not to exceed 10 days in one semester, Hall said.

“We want to intervene with student attendance problems early so that we can deter the possibility of the student’s failing the year,” Tucker said. “The purpose behind the truancy law is to help students avoid losing a year’s worth of credit due to non-attendance and to ultimately keep them from dropping out.”

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