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The Source: Truancy Reforms Look To Keep Kids In School, Out Of Court

Flickr user Bill Selak

Thousands of San Antonio kids are ending up in adult courtrooms over "Failure to Attend School" (FTAS) violations. In 2012, a third of all class C misdemeanors filed against minors were FTAS in Texas. The state saw 76,000 cases in courts that year, according to Texas Appleseed

How a school district chooses to deal with truancy varies widely and can affect the rest of a child's life. Several studies have come out showing the earlier a child crosses paths with the justice system, the more likely they are to end up in prison later in life.

FTAS is the most serious way to deal with truancy; including a fine per absence. It can only be issued after a student misses three or more days in four-week period or 10 or more in a six-month period. A similar, lesser charge is the family court's "Child in Need of Supervision," which is in the family code. 

The City of San Antonio and its school districts formed a task force to tackle the problem of truancy. The task force aims standardize how districts deal with the problem while reducing the incidence. 

Northside Independent School District, the fourth-largest school district in the state, began actively intervening instead of issuing citations. Working with the courthouse, they were assigned a case manager who would work with families to find solutions. The district said it led to a dramatic reduction in the number of cases going to court.

What is the best way to deal with truancy? How do we keep kids in school where they belong?


  • Brian Woods, superintendent of Northside ISD
  • Rey Saldaña, District 4 councilman and head of city's task force
  • Mary Mergler, staff attorney for Texas Appleseed working on school-to-prison pipeline issues

*This is the second segment in the April 8 edition of The Source, which airs at 3 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM -- audio from this show will be posted by 5:30 p.m.

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive