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The Source: Decriminalizing Truancy In San Antonio Has Big Results, State Passes Own Law

Credit: Wikicommons http://bit.ly/1CPNiYT

As the school year comes to a close across the city, results continue to show in changes to truancy policy at one major school district. A plan enacted in 2010 between the city's largest school district, NorthsideISD, and the city's municipal court has been showing a dramatic improvement in in keeping kids out of courts, and  keeping them in the classroom. A 50 percent reduction in truancy cases were filed in the past year compared to 2010, with a small uptick in attendance. 

Most juvenile crime takes place during school hours, and that almost half of the incarcerated are high-school dropouts, the societal gains from keeping kids in school is high. This understanding gave birth to the collaboration between NorthsideISD and the city of San Antonio. One might think that making penalties stiff would ensure kids and their families take going to school more seriously, but in research conducted by a slew of policy groups showed that the earlier a child is in the justice system the more likely he or she is to return there.

Addressing the root problems within families, behavior modification, and more are stressed in the municipal program.

The state of Texas wants in on the success. Monday the 84th Legislature sent a bill that would make truancy a civil issue rather than a criminal one to Governor Greg Abbott for his signature.


  • Judge John Bull, municipal court judge for the city of San Antonio
  • Deborah Fowler, excutive director of Texas Appleseed a left-leaning policy organization focused on social and economic justice.

What we are reading:

Truancy: The warning bell for long-term social ills - San Antonio Express News Op-Ed

"Why is school attendance so important? School attendance can be a predictor of long-term problems. Studies show two-thirds of truant students will not graduate with their peers and will be charged with a criminal offense within two years of persistent truancy" - Brian Woods, superintendent of Northside ISD and Judge John Bull

How San Antonio Is Solving the Truancy Problem - Al Jazeera America

"If this young man had been going to school in Dallas or Houston or most other cities in Texas, hewould face and adult criminal conviction for truancy and a fine...But because he goes to school in San Antonio what happens next is different."

Truancy Reform Legislation Headed to the Governor - Texas Observer

"Under HB 2398, students who miss school would no longer face fines, arrest, and even jail time. Instead, those who wrack up unexcused absences would b subject to truancy prevention programs, such as behavior modification plans or in-school community service."

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org