By: Jeremy Alford
If a lawmaker from Lincoln Parish has his way, parents will pay for their kids habitual tardiness at public schools.
House Bill 1133 by Rep. Hollis Downs, R-Ruston, would label an elementary school student as habitually tardy after the fifth unexcused absence, but only if parents take no corrective action. At that point, a judge could fine the parents up to $250 or impose a maximum 30-day prison sentence. The penalties would apply after all reasonable efforts by school officials fail. Downs says tardy students not only interrupt their classmates but also fall behind on valuable hours of instruction. Thats why some schools are beginning to open spillover rooms for late students rather than disrupt an ongoing class, he adds. His bill would partner parish school boards with DAs offices for enforcement. Andy Shealy, an assistant DA in Lincoln Parish, says the penalties arent extreme. This type of problem occurs every day in every classroom in every school district throughout our state, he says. Shealy adds that all cases would be prosecuted in juvenile court and all records would remain confidential. Last year, the same bill by Downs died on the Senate floor during the sessions final hour because of time constraints.