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Truant students trade classroom for courtroom

Posted: 5:24 PM, Apr 19, 2018
Updated: 2018-04-19 18:24:36-04

Children who log ten unexcused absences, you could find themselves in truancy court.

This morning, Justice of the Peace for Precinct 1 Judge Joe Benavides’ cases included a second grader and a kindergartner, both have missed more than 15 days of school.

One parent said their child was being bullied, the other blamed illness.

The Judge didn’t buy either excuse.

According to court records, Judge Benavides and another court today were scheduled to hear 79 truancy cases.

The court hears countless excuses from parents, but the only thing that concerns Benavides is what can happen to kids who constantly miss school.

" A lot of the kids who do get in trouble with higher crime are ones that aren’t going to school," said benavides.

The average elementary student they see has missed 25 to 30 days of school. The average middle or high school student has missed about 100 class periods.

On a monthly bases, the number of parents and students who come into Benavides’ court climbs into the hundreds.

"Parents are not being accountable to their kids for many reasons," Benavides said. "And kids aren’t going to school." 

One message the judge has for parents: Learn to identify the warning signs he calls red flags.

"The red flags are when kids aren’t going to school. You’re looking at drugs, bullying, peer pressure," Benavides said. "There’s a lot of red flags out there."