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Truancy a focus for county

By By ANNA M. LEE Assistant Editor
The Escambia County School System and Juvenile Court System work to remedy truancy problems early before they grow into more serious issues.
There is a relationship between a student's truancy problem and the potential to drop out of school completely, said Donna Revel, Escambia County's attendance officer for the past 13 years.
Alabama's Parental Responsibility Act states that parents are legally responsible for keeping children in school and that they may be jailed if they fail to meet this responsibility.
The Early Warning Prevention Program aims to prevent serious truancy problems by educating parents and children early.
When a child begins to have excessive absences or tardiness, both the child and the parents are asked to attend an Early Warning Prevention Program session.
Escambia County's Early Warning Prevention Program was modeled after Baldwin County's program and has been duplicated throughout the state, Revel said.
In 1999 a law was passed requiring that the attendance officer report to the Alabama Department of Motor Vehicles any student who had dropped out, had 10 consecutive absences or 15 cumulative unexcused absences. Students reported for dropping out or excessive absences would then have their driver's licenses suspended.
Since that law was implemented in 2000, the county's drop-out rate has decreased 2.5 percent, Revel said.
Also since 1999, students who drop out of school have not been allowed to take the GED until they are out of school for a year or get special permission from the superintendent.
The county drop-out rate has gone from 30 percent to 14 percent in the last 13 years, Revel said.
Compared to other school systems of similar size in the state, Escambia County now has a lower drop-out rate.
Children with truancy problems and their parents can find themselves in juvenile court for a child truancy violation or parental responsibility violation.
Children in juvenile court for truancy are considered "child in need of supervision" cases and are subject to probation, curfew, alternative school or referral to the Alabama Department of Youth Services, Jordan said.
Through the Early Warning Prevention Program and other methods, the schools and juvenile courts in Escambia County hope to take care of truancy problems before they become that severe.