Knoxville DA Randy Nichols To Talk Truancy Here

Monday, February 18, 2002

Knoxville District Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Randall Nichols will meet with Hamilton County District Attorney Bill Cox, county school officials and juvenile court representatives to discuss Knox County's truancy intervention program.

The meeting will take place at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 20, in the
Superintendent's Conference Room located at the Bonny Oaks central

Rhonda Garren, community prosecution coordinator for Knox County, and
Teresa Parker, Knox County's Juvenile Court liaison, will also attend the meeting along with members of the Hamilton County School Board's truancy committee.

"This will truly be a meeting of the minds," said School Board Vice
Chairwoman Debbie Colburn, who also serves on the truancy committee.
"We wanted to bring all of the key players together to discuss ways our
school system can benefit from what our peers in Knox County are doing
to keep children in school."

The Knox County DA's office, school system, juvenile court and police
department use a team approach to combat truancy. Any child found to be truant by law enforcement officials is transported to a "truancy center." Patrol officers actively seek to identify truant children during regular school days. Parents are encouraged to make sure their child attends school regularly, or a warrant may be filed against them with a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail, a $2,500 fine, community service and/or elimination of the parent's Families First benefits.

"Knox County officials recognize that truancy is often reflective of
other problems in the student's personal or family life," Mr. Nichols said.

"For this reason, the truancy program is primarily an intervention,
education and prevention program. Our truancy program brings a
collaborative, graduated approach to truancy problems. Early
assessments and treatment services focus on the truant and the family."

Research shows that truant students are more likely to be involved in
delinquent activity as juveniles, leading to criminal offenses as
adults. Also, students with chronic absences run the risk of dropping
out of school, officials said.

"I know that Hamilton County Schools and our local law enforcement
agencies want to tackle truancy," Ms. Colbrun said, "but financial
restraints and staff issues are real hindrances. Yet we hope to come
away from Wednesday's meeting with a strong partnership and a commitment
to find creative ways to address this issue for our children's sakes."

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