Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

August 15, 2013

Proposed Effingham County truancy ordinance would fine parents

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — Parents who persistently allow their children to skip school are being put on notice by Effingham County officials.

There has been an anti-truancy law on the Illinois books for more than a decade, but State's Attorney Bryan Kibler said Thursday he was drafting a new ordinance that would take the process out of the criminal justice system, where the parent would likely be eligible for a public defender or be able to hire an attorney.

Instead, Kibler said, he would like to see the County Board adopt a measure that would allow the county to fine parents $100 for each unexcused absence beyond the nine that are allowed by law. He said Illinois law allows counties to treat truancy as an ordinance violation.

For parents who are making the effort to make their children attend school, the ordinance could force the truant to do 50 hours of public service work per unexcused absence beyond the allowed nine days.

"We have five or 10 kids in our county who miss 25 to 30 days of school every year for no valid reason," Kibler said. "That has to stop."

Kibler presented his proposal at Thursday's meeting of the Effingham County Board's Tax & Finance Committee of the Whole.

The ordinance provides an exemption for legitimately home-schooled children. The sanctions would apply, however, to those parents who say they are home-schooling their children when it can be proven the children are not making legitimate academic progress.

"We'll have parents who say they are home-schooling, but then we find out their 16-year-old is reading at a third-grade level," Kibler said.

Kibler said the ordinance also provides for the formation of an oversight committee to monitor the effects of the ordinance.

Illinois law mandates school attendance for all children under age 16.

"It's just another tool in the box for the Regional Office of Education and local school districts," said Kibler.

Kibler said he drafted the ordinance after extensive research that included surveys of other county truancy laws and discussions with educational professionals.

The committee voted unanimously to pass the proposal onto the full board, which meets Monday.

The committee also recommended adding another member to the Ambulance Oversight Committee. Board member David Campbell said the committee is preparing to start inspecting ambulance operations within the county, including random ambulance checks for maintenance and inventory issues.

"The group we have is very capable," said board member Mike DePoister. "We're just short-handed."

The group currently has six members, including DePoister and board member Karen Luchtefeld. The other four members all have some level of emergency response experience.

Those interested in serving on the committee may contact board Administrator Joyce Worman at 217-342-4990 during regular business hours. Those who wish to express their interest electronically can access the county's official website at www.co.effingham.il.us.

In other action Thursday, the committee recommended that the full board approve the annual audit of county finances. West & Co. representative David Faller told the committee the audit showed no problems with the way financial matters were being conducted.

Also Thursday, the committee recommended the full board approve a donation of $2,500 to the Effingham County Fair Board for security costs at the recently concluded Effingham County Fair.