Tulsa truancy ordinance 'in the works'
BY KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 05, 2012
9/05/12 at 4:02 AM
A Tulsa truancy ordinance is "in the works" to make students who skip school subject to a fine and a Municipal Court appearance, City Councilor Karen Gilbert said Tuesday.
She spoke at the City Council's second education meeting at the Jenks High School Math and Science Center.
The meetings give city councilors an opportunity to discuss education issues with the superintendents of Tulsa, Jenks and Union school districts.
Under a state statute, a student or parent cannot be prosecuted for truancy until the student is absent from school 10 consecutive days.
But Gilbert said that doesn't go far enough because some kids skirt the law by staying out just under that length of time, then returning to school for a day or two before missing school again.
"When they do that, they fall further behind," she said.
Gilbert said the ordinance would provide another tool for police to get kids back to school.
She and Councilor G.T. Bynum have been working together to determine the best way to institute a truancy ordinance and to find funding to support it.
They hope to bring a proposed ordinance to the council in the next few weeks, she said.
"I don't think there's any other issue that binds us together more than this one," Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard told city councilors.
Councilors in attendance were Gilbert, Bynum, Phil Lakin and Jeannie Cue.
Ballard said many truant students are out committing crimes during the school day.
"As we analyzed our test scores, the single most important factor to increasing test scores is getting students in class," he said.
Gilbert said Tulsa's ordinance would mirror Oklahoma City's statute, which was enacted in 2010.
In Oklahoma City, students ages 12 to 17 with an unexcused absence from school may be cited, fined or detained by police.
Students and their parents must appear in municipal court to pay their fines, according to a copy of the ordinance.
Fines are $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second and $150 for the third, the ordinance says.
Ballard said Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Karl Springer told him the ordinance has made a huge impact in the district.
"It brings the issue closer to home when you enact a city ordinance," he said.
Bynum said both Tulsa Municipal Court officials and Mayor Dewey Bartlett support a truancy ordinance.
"Once it is established and going, we would turn it into a therapeutic court for families," Gilbert said. "There we could ask, 'Why is your child out of school?' and 'How can we help?' "
Original Print Headline: Truancy ordinance 'in the works'
Kim Archer 918-581-8315
City Councilor Karen Gilbert: She said the ordinance would provide another tool for police to get kids back to school. Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard said, "I don't think there's any other issue that binds us together more than this one."