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SB 106 would fundamentally change how truancy would be handled in Texas. Currently truant students can actually face stiff fines and possible jail time; and in some circumstances so can their parents.
This bill would allow the court to automatically expunge truancy records. This bill would stop schools from automatically referring students to truancy courts. This bill reduces the fines associated with truancy.
This bill also creates a new subtitle within the Education Code called “Truancy Court Proceedings.” This was created to encourage school attendance through civil judicial procedures and to hold children accountable for excessive absences.
Children would have a right to jury trial and there is an outlined set of procedures for a waiver of rights. Adjudication of a child under SB 106 would not be considered a conviction so it could not later disqualify the child from any civil service application or appointment. A truancy conviction would not be able to be used in any other subsequent court proceedings, other than a truancy-related appeal. This bill would create a “remedial order” that the children should (1) attend school, (2) attend a preparatory class for high school equivalency examination, (3) take the high school equivalency exam, (4) attend a special program in the best interest of the child, (5) complete community service, AND (6) participate in a tutorial program.
This bill changes the procedures applicable to parent contributing to nonattendance offenses by leaving the court the discretion to exercise their powers authorized by Chapter 45 within the Code of Criminal Procedure. However, this bill also lists specific ways to deal with this offense under “Truancy Court Proceedings” subchapter, which includes a number of programs such as counselling, paying fines, or community service.
Under this legislation a municipality may purchase an insurance policy to protect them against liability for claims arising from community service. This bill also provides for a hearing to modify remedies and sealing of records for truancy related adjudications.
We support this bill for taking a comprehensive approach to decriminalizing truancy convictions within the state of Texas. Jailing children and the people who provide for them is not the best solution and does not help to educate truant students. Students need to be in the classroom, not in jail and not facing fines they don't have the means to pay. Treating this as a criminal issue is the wrong approach.
This bill promotes the individual liberty of parents and children to reside in a state that no longer criminalizes them for nonattendance and charts a course for them to take personal responsibility for securing the benefits of education. In decriminalizing truancy the legislature will also advance the cause of limited government. We strongly encourage the adoption of SB 106.