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Truancy Laws to be Enforced

 From left are, Nadia R. Black, assistant solicitor; Melissa Y. Bell-Gunn, S.C. D.J.J.; David H. Almonte; Georgetown County School District; Jan Bromell Holmes, judge, 15th Judicial Circuit; Raphael M. Carr, executive director for Georgetown County Alcohol & Drug Abuse Commission; and Robin P. Poston, director for Georgetown County DSS. Committee members not pictured are Doris Williamson, Georgetown County Department of Mental Health; and Phillip D. Trammel, prevention specialist.
From left are, Nadia R. Black, assistant solicitor; Melissa Y. Bell-Gunn, S.C. D.J.J.; David H. Almonte; Georgetown County School District; Jan Bromell Holmes, judge, 15th Judicial Circuit; Raphael M. Carr, executive director for Georgetown County Alcohol & Drug Abuse Commission; and Robin P. Poston, director for Georgetown County DSS. Committee members not pictured are Doris Williamson, Georgetown County Department of Mental Health; and Phillip D. Trammel, prevention specialist.
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The State of South Carolina and the Georgetown County officials are serious about enforcing laws requiring children to attend school.

Research has proven that one of the biggest barriers to the education of children is absenteeism from school. Children simply cannot learn if they are not in the classroom. Georgetown County School District is making a dedicated effort to make the public aware of the importance of school attendance and to enforce attendance laws.

Georgetown County Resident Family Court Judge Jan Bromell Holmes has taken action to reduce truancy in Georgetown schools. In November 2014, she formed a Family Court Advisory Committee on Truancy Prevention. The committee members appointed to serve by the judge include David Almonte for Georgetown County School District; Nadia Rasheed Black, assistant solicitor / Georgetown County Juvenile Division of the 15th Judicial Circuit; Melissa Bell-Gunn, director of Georgetown County Department of Juvenile Justice; Robin Poston, director of Georgetown County Department of Social Services); and Phillip Trammel, Truancy Intervention and Guidance Support  (TIGS/ Georgetown County Drug and Alcohol Commission. 

The Family Court has set high goals for the Advisory Committee Members. Their work has already begun under the leadership of Bromell Holmes’ with the approval of the Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court. The plan is to prevent truancy by identifying issues in families and children who are likely to become or are truant, joining the services of the agency members to reach out to the community, and to devise a plan for early detection and response to chronic truancy.

The goal is to find the best methods of intervention and delivery of preventive services to families and children by the agencies. A primary measurement of success will be fewer parents and children being summoned to appear in Family Court on a truancy charge or contempt of a previous truancy court order because of intervention.

South Carolina's laws mandate a joint-responsibility between parents, students and attendance supervisors to assure students attend school regularly. Penalties for truancy are strict, ranging from jail sentences for parents to suspended driver's licenses for students. Attendance supervisors in each South Carolina County provide valuable services to support at-risk students and compel truant students to attend school.

  • Title 59 of South Carolina's Code of Laws holds parents and guardians directly responsible for assuring their children or wards attend school regularly. This responsibility starts with kindergarten enrollment, which must occur in the school year in which a child's fifth birthday falls before September 1. Parental responsibility for school attendance continues until the child turns 17 or graduates high school. Parents who do not compel their children to attend school face $50 fines and up to 30 days in jail for each absence.
  • South Carolina does not hold parents responsible when a child skips school without parental knowledge. Instead, the child may be declared delinquent by the court system and is then subject to the Juvenile Justice code, Title 63. Under Title 63, truancy is considered a "status offense," and can be punished in numerous ways, including suspending a minor's driver's license until he or she reaches the age of 17, or placing the child on probation. The court may also issue an official order for the child to attend school, which, if violated, gives the Department of Juvenile Justice permission to commit the child into custody.

Georgetown County School District schools send daily automated phone messages via the School Messenger system to notify parents whenever a child is absent. This is just one of the reasons it is vital that parents make sure schools have up-to-date contact information.

Individual schools try to resolve problems with attendance in the early stages. A letter is mailed to parents whenever a child misses three consecutive days of school when an excuse is not sent to the school.  If a child misses a total of five unexcused days of school, a certified letter is mailed to the child’s parents with a request for a meeting to discuss reasons for absences.

When meeting with parents, school officials try to help resolve whatever problems are causing the child to be absent from school.

If meeting with school officials fails to resolve attendance problems, the case will be forwarded to TIGS. TIGS will work with the student and parents and will get the other members involved if needed, including Mental Health, the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Department of Social Services.

The third and final step to resolve lack of school attendance is the parent is summoned to court. The penalty to parents who do not have their children attend school can be up to $50 or 30 days imprisonment for each offense.

For information about school attendance call your child’s school.