In New Jersey, Parents Pay Fines for Pupil Truancy

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School officials in Atlantic City, N. J., have started invoking a seldom-used state law to fine parents whose children are chronic truants.

Twelve parents, whose children missed more than 100 days of school last year, were recently found guilty of violating New Jersey's compulsory attendance law. They received a first-offense penalty of $25 plus court costs. The parents face a $100 fine if found guilty of the same offense a second time. School officials say they hope renewed enforcement of the law will help combat the school district's 20 percent average daily absence rate.

"For years in New Jersey, the schools could tell truants, 'Either be taught in school or in jail,’" said Paul V. Lacity, assistant superintendent for special services in the Atlantic City Public School District.

A law passed in the mid-1970's put an end to that practice, and truancy rates subsequently mushroomed, Mr. Lacity said.

Atlantic City school officials have been flooded with calls from colleagues across the state seeking information concerning the district's adoption of the policy, according to Mr. Lacity. "I think this could be the beginning of a trend in the state," he said.

Vol. 01, Issue 00, Page 11

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