An antiquated law on Texas’ book has made missing school a crime. And what’s more, the illegality of the act of being truant is something that the state has heavily enforced; approximately 100,000 students per year have been sent to criminal court or/and jail for missing school. Now, Texas Governor Greg Abbot has signed into effect a law that will decriminalize truancy, with many saying that it’s about time. An article published by US Today provides a great summary of the issue found here.
Former Penalty for Missing School
While the idea behind the law was certainly well intentioned—to keep students in school—the law carried harsh penalties, and was ineffective. Penalties under the former law included up to a $500 fine, court costs, and a criminal record for young people. When fines went unpaid—as they often were, as many of the kids skipping school were the same kids who couldn’t afford a $500 fee—children faced jail time upon turning age 17.
The law directly affected students age 12 and above, and was enforced when students missed three days of school within a four week time period. Furthermore, the law also required school authorities to file a notice to the proper authorities reporting when children missed a certain number of unexcused school days.
A Significant, and Important, Change
According to Senator John Whitmire, a democrat from Houston, “Most of the truancy issues involved hardships. To criminalize the hardships just doesn’t solve anything. It costs largely low-income families. It doesn’t address the root causes.”
It appears that others in Texas’ House and Senate agree; all former truancy convictions will be expunged under the new law (however, it is up to the courts to decide what will happen with existing fines – some students have thousands of dollars in truancy fines yet to be paid, preventing them from taking certain actions, like receiving a driver’s license). The new law also won’t target kids, but instead will charge their parents with misdemeanor offenses. What’s more, fines will start at $100 and graduate to $500 for repeated offenses.
Learn More About Criminal Law
Criminal law is evolving. If you’ve been charged with a crime in Texas and want to learn more about your rights, and how you may be able to get your sentence reduced, the attorneys at The Hill Law Firm can help. To get in touch with us today for a free case consultation, dial(713) 623-8312 now.