You Could Be Fined if Your Kids Don’t Go to School [AUDIO]
All good parents know it pays to send their children to school, but did you know parents can be fined in New Jersey if their kids don't show up? It's true.
Under a law currently on the books, a parent or guardian of a truant student may be fined, at the discretion of the court, not more than $25 for a first offense and not more than $100 for each subsequent offense. The fines would increase dramatically if one state lawmaker has his way.
"I've seen many instances as a municipal prosecutor where parents are fined and they come in and slam down $100 and then just walk out," says Assemblyman Reed Gusciora. "I think we all can agree that everyone should be invested in a child's education and I think we need to motivate even parents more to ensure that their children show up for school."
Under a bill already formally introduced by Gusciora, a parent or guardian of a truant student would be subject to a fine of not more than $250 for each offense, at the discretion of the court. The fines are for unexcused absences, not for illness or any other legitimate reason a parent or guardian might keep their child out of school.
"It just sends a message where the parent thinks about it instead of just shrugging their shoulders and saying, 'Well, I can't control my kid,'" says Gusciora. "Twenty-five dollars I think is a waste of everybody's time, the courts and the parents……It (the increased fine) also sends a message that a child's education is valuable and that parents should do all they can to make sure that their children show up."
In his role as a prosecutor, Gusciora has seen his share of fines imposed on the parents of truant children. He says it's not common, but it's not rare either.
There is another provision in the Assemblyman's legislation. The bill also provides that the court must order a truant student, who has demonstrated a pattern of repeated unauthorized absences from school, to attend a truancy counseling program or other appropriate counseling program, as determined by the court.
Under current law, courts are permitted but not required to order truant students to participate in such programs or services.