Thursday’s event in the General Sessions Criminal Court Division 15 (Truancy Court) of Judge Loyce Lambert-Ryan drew eight parents, representing eight truant students. At the first Safe Serve event in January 2016 held at a church only one parent responded.
“Eight parents might not seem like a lot, but we’re looking for progress and hoping the word begins to spread,” said Gen. Weirich, adding that dozens of other parents responded in some way to the notification. “Truancy in Memphis is a huge problem and it goes hand in hand with criminal behavior. Students need to be in class working toward graduation, not roaming the streets and finding trouble.”
Notices and robo calls went out to 107 parents whose 143 children are from the 12 schools participate in the DA’s Truancy Reduction Program. System-wide, nearly 30,000 students are truant each year.
Also on Thursday, 32 parents not in the program showed up at the Safe Serve event because they had students with truancy issues and were concerned they had arrest warrants. They were directed to the SCS truancy department.
In addition, more than 120 parents of truant students called or emailed the DA’s office with similar inquiries and concerns.
By law, parents whose children have five days of unexcused absences can be found guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and fines of up to $2,500.
Under a partnership that includes the DA’s Office, SCS and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, arrest warrants for parents who attended the Safe Serve event this week were converted into criminal summonses.
The parents are to return to court in May to be placed in a diversion program, including parenting classes, designed to get their children back in school. Upon successful completion of the program, the misdemeanor charges against the parents will be dismissed, said Megan Pietrowski, program coordinator of the DA’s Mentoring Based Truancy Reduction Program.