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
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.
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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
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
The ordinance that he modeled after Rockford's ordinance
addresses all students, including those in public, private and
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.
[By JAN YOUNGQUIST]
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