Drop Out Rates Unabated Under Current Laws

Contact: Dotty Griffith, Public Education Director, ACLU Foundation of Texas, (512) 478-7300 x 106 or 923-1909; [email protected]

AUSTIN - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas today asked state lawmakers to reassess the effectiveness of truancy laws because state drop out rates have remained consistently high for 25 years.

In remarks delivered during a meeting of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, the ACLU pointed to the state's high drop out rate, which has remained almost unchanged since the current truancy laws were enacted in 2007. During that same time, the number of truancy prosecutions has increased.

"The truancy laws, while they have the best of intentions, are not working," ACLU of Texas Policy Strategist Matt Simpson said. "Clearly, our current efforts are not improving the statewide dropout rate and are only adding to the burden of an already stretched judicial system."

The ACLU asked lawmakers to support two modifications to the laws, including changes in provisions that allow for the prosecution of students who are 18- to 21-years-old because that undermines enrollment of these older students. Second, mandatory referral of older students to local courts for prosecution does nothing to encourage attendance and puts additional pressure on the courts.

"Mandatory referral doesn't take into account the personal or family issues affecting a student's absences," Simpson added. "Schools should be allowed to use discretion before a decision is made to refer the case to the judicial system. Once the courts step in, the punishment handed down could exacerbate the issues that caused the student to be absent in the first place."