Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building
361 Rowe Boulevard
|NEWS RELEASE CONTACT: Sally Rankin 410-260-1488|
(Salisbury, MD— January 11, 2005) The Maryland Judiciary launched a Truancy Reduction Pilot Program yesterday in Wicomico County, offering a new court-based approach to the problem of truancy in schools across the state.
The pilot program was authorized under House Bill 1443, currently in Chapter 551, passed by the State Legislature during the 2004 legislative session. In the program, civil petitions are filed against children who fail to attend school, while criminal misdemeanors are filed against their parents.
“The goal is to be more proactive and to get involved with some of these young people who may be truant, whether as a result of their own actions or through inaction by their parents,” said Judge Daniel M. Long, administrative judge for the First Judicial Circuit, serving Somerset, Dorchester, Wicomico, and Worcester counties.
The program will connect truant children and their families with available family support services, and bring them back into the courtroom twice a month to monitor their progress.
In the past, truancy charges against parents have been handled in the District Court. Under the Truancy Reduction Pilot Program, truancy cases are handled in the circuit court where the parents of younger children can face a criminal charge, and older children can face a newly created civil charge. In these situations, the court can work with the whole family to try to resolve problems.
“We’re trying to take a broader approach to truancy issues,” said Wicomico Circuit Court Administrative Judge Donald C. Davis. “Hopefully there will be some synergy in getting to the root causes.”
Under the pilot program, the court
may order the child to attend school, perform community service, attend
individual or family counseling, participate in substance abuse evaluations
and treatment, undergo a mental health evaluation, or keep a curfew.