Wednesday, November 28, 2007
sponsored by Illini Bank & Jake's Furniture

City to Adopt Truancy Ordinance

Send a link to a friend

[November 28, 2007]  The city of Lincoln has a new ordinance regulating truancy ready to pass at next week's council meeting. The ordinance committee met to discuss the matter on Tuesday evening. The entire city council was present. Also present were a number of home-school parents and Regional Superintendent of Schools Jean Anderson.

Chronic absenteeism, or truancy, causes students to fail, causes financial hardship for schools as they lose state and federal funds for each student in attendance on a day-to-day basis, and it is tied to juvenile delinquency rates.

Truancy and juvenile delinquency have each been at a peak in Lincoln and Logan County for several years, but school and law enforcement authorities have had little they could do. Truancy has been regulated by state school code. In July 2006 the state of Illinois passed new legislation, Public Act 94-1011. This act gives municipalities and counties an opportunity to write their own ordinance to help keep kids in school.

The proposed truancy ordinance would affect children between the ages of 7 and 17 years.

The act allows that the local ordinance can include fines and community service for truancy violations. Parents may be penalized for violations by students under the age of 10. Students age 10 and over may have to pay the penalty themselves.

The regional superintendent's office tracks all truants and has a program in place to help chronically delinquent students get back on track. This just provides us with another tool, Anderson said. She said that she has already seen some results just in talking with some of the current students.

It's been noted that in neighboring Peoria and in Rockford, the weekday, daytime crime rate went down after a stricter truancy law went into effect.

Both the county and the city began working toward adopting an ordinance this year. Included in the ordinance is a daytime curfew, which basically suggests that children of school age cannot be out in public on school days during standard school hours.

Parents who home-school are concerned that their children could or would be stopped by police and questioned if they were seen out in public or even playing in their yards.

City aldermen made several comments that put the intention, or spirit of the law, in context. Kathy Horn said that as the mother of six boys, she would want to know if one of her kids was somewhere he didn't belong. The police are busy and they wouldn't be looking to stop all kids, aldermen noted.

Ordinance chairman Marty Neitzel met with the home-school parents to try to work out details that would work for them as well. The group presented the ordinance with revisions Tuesday night.

Neitzel had recently attended the Illinois Municipal League Conference, which had a session on truancy. She relayed the information and a copy of the featured ordinance that Rockford developed to city attorney Bill Bates. Bates took that ordinance and rewrote it for Lincoln.

[to top of second column]

Bates was asked his opinion of the proposed ordinance revisions presented by the home-school group. He told aldermen that the changes "seriously dilute what I've been told you want."

He observed these objections to the group's proposed ordinance:

  • It is not a violation of the ordinance unless a citation is issued within 30 days.

  • It changes the definition of truant. The student's name would need to be on a list from the regional superintendent's office. If they are not on a list from that office, then they are not a truant.

  • It makes students in private or parochial schools not subject to compulsory attendance.

The ordinance that he modeled after Rockford's ordinance addresses all students, including those in public, private and parochial schools.

Neitzel said that after almost a year in the making of this ordinance, she was ready to move on the ordinance. She motioned to accept the proposed ordinance drafted by the city attorney with a few minor amendments.

Superintendent Anderson said in a telephone conversation Wednesday that she is 100 percent behind the proposed ordinance written by Bates. It is beautifully written and meets the needs. She observed that often laws are written that need to have the bugs worked out over time. She believes that it is strong enough not to have to go back and revise it.

Helping students stay in school is a main concern to the regional superintendent's office. "Everybody's child becomes everybody's hero or everybody's problem," she said.


Past related article:


< Top Stories index

Back to top


News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching and Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries

Community | Perspectives | Law and Courts | Leisure Time | Spiritual Life | Health and Fitness | Teen Scene
Calendar | Letters to the Editor