Tough penalties for truants

By Gus Bode

Local school administrators now have a helping hand in eliminating truancies.

The City Council has approved an ordinance amending the city code that applies harsh truancy laws to students and even parents.

Mayor Brad Cole proposed the idea at the State of the City address on Nov. 14, and it was approved at the Nov. 21 City Council meeting. He said an amendment to the Illinois Municipal Code, which was passed in July, gave the city the power to enact a tougher truancy law.


Steve Sabens, superintendent of Carbondale Community High School District 165, said any amount of truancy in school is a problem, and the new ordinance will aid in ending it.

“It’s another tool to assist not only the school, but also the parents and families,” Sabens said.

He also said building administrators and the attendance office will help take care of any kind of truancy problem.

Cole said the truant ordinance was created to combat the same problem as the Intervention Task Force, another youth initiative in the works, because the students who are causing problems in the city are the same as those who are skipping school.

“It’s not that there is an overwhelming crisis, but there are some kids that are chronic truants,” he said.

The ordinance is broken into two sections – one for parents of students under 10 years of age, and one for parents and students 10 years of age or older. If a student under 10 years old is truant – absent for a school day or any part of a day without a valid excuse – the parent can be fined between $75 and $100 for each offense. For students 10 years of age or older who are truant, the student and the parent will both be fined between $75 and $100.

Cole said the fines are consistent with the penalties for violating other city codes, but he said the fines would not be the main deterrent for students.


“The fine itself isn’t going to change anybody’s pattern,” he said. “It’s having to be accountable – getting the ticket and having to go to court. That’s hopefully going to be the wakeup call.”

The fines will be assessed if a student is absent without a valid excuse, such as illness, family emergency or religious holiday, and if the parents knowingly or negligently allowed a student to skip school.

Cole said the students have an obligation to go to school because the taxpayers are forking out money for the student’s education.

“If they’re missing school, then this is a last effort to try to impress upon them that it’s not a good idea,” he said.

Cole said the ordinance is aimed at only a small number of students who consistently skip school and not the ones who miss a day here or there. He said the laws have to be on the books for the ones that are causing problems, but there is a simple solution – go to class.

Brandon Augsburg can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 262 or [email protected].

Alicia Wade can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 274 or [email protected].