PINE BELT (WDAM) - If a child misses more than 12 days that are unexcused in some Pine Belt School Districts, the parent or guardian could end up on a discipline ladder that leads to jail.
For Petal and Lamar County School Districts, truancy issues are not a big issue.
Our parents and community understand the importance of students being at school," Petal School District Superintendent Matt Dillon said. "Our administrators, teachers, even secretaries help intentionally to contact students that are absent, so we stay on top of those type things before they turn into bigger issues."
Average daily attendance is one of the ways that school districts get funding.
"When students aren't in class, the districts take a hit, if the number of absences is too many, the Mississippi Department of Education steps in," Dillon said.
Mississippi Code said that 12 unexcused absences during a single school year establish that the parent or guardian responsible for the absences has failed to perform the duties imposed on them.
Petal and Lamar County School District's get roughly $18 per day, per student.
"A few years back, we had a large issue with a stomach bug that hit our district, it resulted in a large number of absences and the district took a hit," Lamar County School District Superintendent Tess Smith said. "You could actually look at the dollar difference at the end of the year, when it was time for us to determine what our budget was going to be for the following year, so it does have a direct impact on the funding we receive."
When a student does rack up 12 unexcused absences, it falls into the hands of truancy officers, which are employed by the state, not each individual district.
"When these unexcused absences have just accumulated over a period of time, and you've tried to work with them, of course this happens away from us," Dillon said. "The state truancy officer works closely with the parents, they try to look at all the documentation and make the best decision for the student."
After the truancy officer gets involved, the matter is then taken before a judge.
"That matter goes to a judge, and then it's handled on a case by case basis," Dillon said.
Smith said, "If the parents can just get their kids, students to us, we will do the rest. When a student is absent they miss out on that one-on-one interaction that you can get in a classroom, and when the student misses, it's just nothing like being in the classroom."
Dillon said, "Our parents in the district know the importance of getting an education for their kids, when they send them to us, we do more than our part to keep them here, and be sure we give the best possible path to success we can, it's rare that we see a truancy arrest, but sometimes it does happen."