Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

August 14, 2013

Local schools take truancy issues seriously

TAHLEQUAH — srowley@tahlequahdailypress.com

Is it easier to count the number of kids who have played hooky, or who haven’t?

Though many students may tell tales of days off to rival Ferris Bueller’s, truancy is taken seriously by local schools and Cherokee County.

“If nothing else, it costs the schools money,” said Officer Bob Lewandowski. “They want to keep the kids in school and attendance high. Of course, we’re also talking about the kids’ futures. Truants are more likely to drop out. I know a lot of students may get bored, or their parents don’t make them go. But it is more important now than 20 or 40 years ago to graduate from high school. Get that diploma, then go from there.”

Characterizing the problem of truancy in Cherokee County, Lewandowski called it “normal.”

“I don’t think it is any worse here than anywhere else,” he said. “Our truancy court meets once a month in front of Judge [Mark] Dobbins. There are four School Resource officers in Tahlequah and two for the county. We share information. Different schools may handle the problem a little differently, but Cherokee County itself is consistent.”

Lewandowski said he usually sends at least 50 truancy letters a week, though not all those students are necessarily truant.

“That number includes all our letters,” he said. “I send an advisory letter to parents if a student has had three unexcused absences in a quarter, and another if they’ve had six. If it gets up to 10 the parents receive a citation and can be called to court unless extenuating circumstances can be demonstrated.”

Failure to compel one’s children to attend school is a misdemeanor. In court, the parents can make their cases. A second court date is often set, which the children attend.

Though the reasons for truancy may vary with the students’ age, its frequency does not.

“High school kids may be skipping,” Lewandowski said. “For younger students who can’t drive, it may be that they are skipping the bus, but usually it is the parents not being persistent about getting their kids to school. But truancy happens at all levels, and isn’t more likely with one age group or the other.”

The job can vary for Lewandowki. He has seen parents serve jail sentences of up to five days for not getting their children to school. He has been called by parents to roust kids from their beds.

“It can be a balancing act trying to keep students in school,” he said. “Some just need a little attention. Some aren’t even enrolled - which tells me the parents are not involved. Sometimes I try to remind them of the social aspect. I wasn’t the world’s greatest student, but I had a lot of fun. I got to see my friends every day.”

There are some old romantic stereotypes about truancy, but Lewandowski said they bear little resemblance to reality.

“It isn’t like we go out to stop Spanky and Our Gang from going fishing,” he said. “We can’t chase kids. We don’t have the manpower or the time. We don’t have a detention center, so when we do pick up truants, we either take them home or back to school.”

Lewandowski believes the county’s methods of handling truancy are effective, if not perfect.

“Sometimes you do keep seeing the same kids, or kids from the same family,” he said. “I’m not saying our way is the best in the country, but I don’t know what else we could do. I like the way we handle it because it isn’t intended to be embarrassing or punitive. It isn’t severe, just an incentive to get the kids to school. I think it is a pretty positive program.”

1
Text Only
Local News
  • ts-marching-MAIN.jpg Marching in step

    Tahlequah High School Orange Express Marching Band kicks off 2014 season with summer drills.

    The Tahlequah High School Orange Express Marching Band has added 30-35 freshmen to its roster this year, and drills began for the newest members last Thursday.

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • studie-roberta.jpg Woman accused of stealing cash, taking it to casino

    A 35-year-old Tahlequah woman is free on bond after she allegedly took $1,200 from a man who had been jailed for old warrants.
    Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies said they spoke with Jason Jones last week after Jones was arrested by park rangers for the outstanding warrants. Jones said he came to Oklahoma to see family, and when he was arrested, he left his wallet and cash with one of his daughters.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • svw-Hepatitis.jpg Hepatitis vaccinations important today

    The phrase “back to school” may be disdained by kids for many reasons, including a trip to the doctor’s office to update immunizations.
    But hepatitis cases in Oklahoma provide a good example of why these vaccinations are important.
    “There was a time when Hepatitis A was just crazy in Oklahoma. The state was actually known for it,” said Becky Coffman, an epidemiologist with the Oklahoma Health Department’s Acute Disease Service.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • hood-raymond.jpg One man caught, another sought after foot chase

    Two people tried to escape sheriff’s deputies, and one was successful, after a traffic stop on U.S. Highway 62 last weekend.
    Deputy Bryan Qualls was on the highway when he noticed a red Chevrolet Avalanche matching the description of a truck that had been spotted at the scene of a recent burglary.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Detectives investigate deaths of two elderly residents

    Incident may be murder-suicide

    Tahlequah police detectives believe the deaths of two elderly Cherokee County residents are part of a murder-suicide that took place July 24-25.

    July 29, 2014

  • ts-Tax-free-main.jpg Shopper's delight

    Tax-free weekend coming up Aug. 1-3, just in time for back-to-school savings

    Attention, shoppers: Oklahoma’s Tax-Free Weekend is coming up, beginning at 12:01 a.m., Friday, Aug. 1.

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos

  • ballard-amanda.jpg Woman pleads no contest to molestation

    A Tahlequah woman accused of having more than 20 sexual encounters with a 13-year-old boy has pleaded no contest in exchange for a 15-year prison sentence, though 10 years have been suspended.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • svw-arch-society.jpg Archaeologist: Spiro Mounds may have been ancient music haven

    People gathered from across the country at the “center of the universe,” bringing with them different styles of music and instruments, each thought to have its own power and importance.
    This could be the description of a modern music festival, but to Jim Rees, it is a picture of the Spiro Mounds 1,000 years before Columbus came to the Americas.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Two headed for trial for conspiracy to kill judge and others

    Two of the four people accused of conspiring to kill a Cherokee County judge and several other targets were bound over for trial Friday following a preliminary hearing in Tahlequah.

    July 28, 2014

  • Woman accused in embezzlement sought for arrest

    Court officials have issued a bench warrant for a woman who previously pleaded to embezzling more than $40,000 while she worked for Tahlequah attorney Park Medearis.

    July 28, 2014

Poll

Do you believe school administrators and college presidents in Oklahoma are paid too much?

Strongly agree.
Somewhat agree.
Somewhat disagree.
Strongly disagree.
Undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
US Ready to Slap New Sanctions on Russia Kerry: Not Worried About Israeli Criticism Boater Rescued From Edge of Kentucky Dam Girl Struck by Plane on Florida Beach Dies Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre House to Vote on Slimmed-down Bill for Border Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating
Stocks