“We do have a very big issue with truancy in our county – especially at the elementary level,” explained Jasper County Juvenile Officer Kim Albracht.
Albracht hopes to shrink the problem with a new truancy court.
“We’re talking about upwards from 40 or 50 days of school absences in some cases,” Albracht continued. “In my experience, it’s not usually just a parent not wanting to get their child to school. There’s some obstacle that they’re facing.”
The pilot program is starting with Joplin schools. When student absences start piling up, their parent is called to court.
The goal is to pinpoint factors which are contributing to the truancy.
“It could be poverty, it could be transportation. It could be mental health or substance abuse – there’s just a wide range of issues that could be happening in the home,” court administrator Erik Theis.
The goal is to solve those problems at an early age and keep students out of both the juvenile system and the adult criminal justice system.
“The juvenile office has a lot of skin in this game,” Theis added. “We know and understand that having an education is very important in keeping kids out of trouble. It transcends into the adult system.”
The project won’t cost the county since it uses existing staff and facilities – but they will be tapping into community resources to help address issues.
The first session of the truancy court will be held on September 5th.