‘There’s no excuse’: Brevard Public Schools sending parents to court over student absences

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — A program launched Thursday going after Brevard County parents for students who keep missing class.

Parents and guardians can now be ordered to participate in the “truancy reduction court” and be held accountable if their kids don’t attend class.

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Judge Christina Serrano said this court is a last resort, and a place parents will come when every other option is exhausted.

Serrano said being ordered to the truancy court is considered a civil matter, but it could lead to a misdemeanor criminal case for parents who still don’t get their kids to school as they’re legally obligated to do until their child turns 16.

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“They need to know their kids need to go to school,” Serrano said. “They can’t be missing school with unexcused absence, or they’re going to be called up to court, or they’re going to have to give me a reason why their children aren’t going to school.”

Officials said 15 absences in a 90-calendar day period can trigger an intervention. Brevard Public Schools said 3,968 students have 15 or more unexcused absences. The families of 429 of those students have been sent to the district’s truancy team to try to work through any obstacles to school attendance.  And 25 families are expected to head to court between now and the end of the school year, where they will have the option to participate in a truancy diversion program.

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“With the diversion program, they’ll need to attend school without any unexcused absences for six weeks,” Serrano said. “If they accomplish that and everything is going well, they’re back in school. The school board has agreed they will dismiss the petition. Those folks don’t even have to come back to court.”

Parents and guardians who don’t get their kids to class could be held in contempt, ordered to do community service, or brought back to court on a weekly basis.

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“Florida has wonderful programs, Brevard County has wonderful programs. I think Brevard County has one of the best homeschooling programs in the nation,” she said. “Honestly, there’s no excuse.”

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.