Lawyer argues against proposed truancy law

The SPLC's Matthew Cregor
The SPLC's Matthew Cregor
City Councilman Tracy Larkin
City Councilman Tracy Larkin

By Mark Bullock - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Keeping kids in class is a becoming a hot debate in Montgomery. Earlier this week, a Montgomery city council member introduced a proposed law that would make parents guilty of a crime if their children were caught skipping school.

Attorneys at the Southern Poverty Law Center are coming out against the idea. They say it borders on being unconstitutional.

Lawyers say they have a problem with the fact the proposal does not stop with skipping school. It would make parents responsible for any behavioral problems of their children, no matter how minor.

"The current ordinance as it stands is designed around arresting parents for the misbehavior of their children for any offense," said the SPLC's Matthew Cregor. "If a child is walking down the hallway in the school with his pants sagging, that child's parents can be arrested and put in jail for six months or pay a fine up to $500."

City Council Member Tracy Larkin proposed the ordinance, which is based on a 40-year-old state law that goes mostly unenforced.

Larkin says there were 60,000 unexcused absences reported last year by Montgomery public schools. Many of those children are from poor, at risk communities.

Larkin, who works as an enforcement officer in the school system, says students who skip class often drop out and resort to a life of crime.

He says his goal is to reduce the truancy rate and help prevent crime.

The council delayed a vote on the proposal at its last meeting. The issue could come up again later this month.