Anti-truancy initiative signed into law

Makes parents responsible for making sure children attend school

A state bill influenced by an anti-truancy initiative in San Francisco was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

SB 1317, authored by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-Francisco, and sponsored by District Attorney Kamala Harris, will make it a misdemeanor offense for parents of elementary school children to allow them to be chronically absent from school.

Previously, parents of chronically truant children could be prosecuted under the state's child endangerment statute, which can also be a misdemeanor.

The new law establishes a specific statute dealing with parents of schoolchildren who are absent for 10 percent or more of the school year.

School districts must provide outreach and intervention services to the parents before a case can be prosecuted, according to Harris spokeswoman Erica Derryck.

"It spells out the responsibilities of the families, as well as the school districts," Derryck said.

Under the law, individual jurisdictions can mandate family services and court supervision instead of fines or imprisonment.

Harris' anti-truancy initiative in San Francisco uses a similar approach and is credited with reducing the number of habitual and chronic elementary school truants in the city by 33 percent, according to Derryck.

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