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Truancy orientation hopes to prevent absences

November 17, 2015 • Local News

In a room filled with students, parents and school officials, Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Raymond L. Romero discussed the consequences Monday of truancy according to state laws.
Truancy orientation, as it’s called, is part of Roswell Independent School District’s fight against unexcused absences, and assurance that every student within the district is afforded the best education.
State statute says all children in New Mexico must attend school, and if the student has 10 unexcused absences, the school is required by law to contact the juvenile probation office where an investigation is initiated.
Once the investigation is complete, the district attorney may file a criminal complaint, and the parents and student are required to explain to a judge in court why they have had so many unexcused absences.
Students and parents are invited by letter to the orientations, which are held every Monday at the school district’s administration building, once they have reached five unexcused absences.
At Monday’s orientation, Romero discussed how the lack of education can be detrimental to a child’s future. He said it can lead to unemployment, criminal activity and substance abuse.
In Chaves County, consequences for student absences can cost parents upwards of “$300, and six months in the Chaves County Detention Center,” Romero said at the meeting.
The state’s strict truancy laws are why RISD began these orientations three years ago, and according to data collected by the district, the district has seen decreases in absences.
For instance, on Nov. 15, 2013, Roswell High School saw 229 absences. On that same date in 2014, the high school saw 189 absences. And on the same date in 2015, the high school saw 198 absences.
School district Superintendent Tom Burris said, “It’s not our desire for parents to go to court, but it is important for students to attend school so they can have a great future.”
Romero encouraged parents to sit down with their children and explain to them how important education is to their future and how, without an education, they will have a difficult time with housing, food and groceries, and getting a job.
“If you go to apply for a job, and you don’t have a degree, but have the same qualifications as another person who applies for that same job, who do you think the employer is going to hire?” Romero asked.
The judge also stated how lucky we are in this country to have the opportunity to receive an education, and asked if anyone in the audience knew who Malala Yousafzai was, then played a video of her experience. Yousafzai, from Pakistan, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. She was shot point-blank in the head by the Taliban for being persistent in her education, but survived.
The truancy orientations end with representatives from each school talking to all students and parents who attend.
If there is an issue such as transportation, the schools work with their families to find a solution.
During an interview with the Daily Record, Romero said, “We want to lead people to change, instead of force people to change.”
For students who may not excel in traditional school settings, Roswell has two alternative high schools, University High School and the Early College High School. Teachers and school counselors are also available to mentor Roswell’s students.
Staff writer Bethany Freudenthal may be contacted at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter03@rdrnews.com.

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