Local school says chronic absenteeism can lead to jail time for parents

You could say Abigail Stanger shoots hoops like a pro. It’s hard to imagine she’s only 13 years old.

Since the first grade, Stanger has never missed a day of school. At the end of eighth grade, she received a perfect attendance award. She says she owes it all to her mom.

"My mom always told me that good attendance leads to good habits," says Stanger. "Where if you had bad attendance, it lead to bad habits."

Ledonia Williamson is the director of pupil personnel at Marshall County Schools. She says bad attendance can lead to low self esteem, substance abuse and trouble with the law.

"There are some parents who don’t want to parent and they’re afraid to tell their child no," she says.

It’s Williamson’s job to make sure that child is in class.

In Marshall County Schools, having three unexcused absences is considered truancy. Williamson says more often than not, it’s the parents who get in trouble. She says they could face charges, a possible fine and worst case scenario, lose custody of their child. In the past, Williamson says she has also charged parents for forging doctors’ notes.

"I try to tell parents that from kindergarten through 12th grade the only job their child has is to go to school," says Williamson.

For each day your child is in school in Marshall County, Williamson says the district gets paid about $22.

"The more that the children are here, the more money we have to give back to our children," says Williamson.

Williamson says the solution is simple: If your child says they don’t want to go to school, tell them to get out of bed and get dressed.

"I wake up every morning with that feeling like I don’t want to go to school, but I go anyway because I remember how important it is for me to go to school," says Stanger.

The U.S. Department of Education says chronic absenteeism is a problem across the country, with more than 6 million students, 13 percent, absent for 15 days or more in a single school year.

For more information about the Department of Education data, click here.

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