A Muskogee parent is crying foul after a 14-year-old student at Alice Robertson Junior High School was arrested yesterday on a Dec. 3 citation in front of classmates and then taken to the Community Intervention Center at the back of the Muskogee County Jail.
The student was arrested for too many absences, according to a citation the parents provided MuskogeeNOW.com. The student has a total of 18 partial or whole absences from school this semester. The parent said eight of those were excused by doctor’s notes, and several of the remaining partial absences were simply tardies. Schools can’t comment on specific cases, so they were unable to confirm those claims.
Dan Hall, chief truancy officer with Muskogee Public Schools, said taking a student to CIC is a last resort, rarely used.
“We start off trying to tell the parents there is a problem if a student misses four times during a four-week period,” he said. “If the parents don’t respond, we try to call, and if they still don’t respond, we try to do a home visit or try to catch them at their jobs. If the parents say they’re going to show up to sign a citation and then they don’t show up, we give them another chance to do that, and if they still don’t show after they’ve said they would, we take the student to CIC so the parent has to come get them and then sign the citation.”
Hall said he wouldn’t classify that as “arrest,” though the distinction may not immediately be clear.
“It’s a last resort,” he said. “We really only do it a few times a year when we have exhausted every other effort.”
Parents can face steep fines and even jail time for failing to compel their children to attend school, according to Oklahoma law.
The parent is concerned that the student was arrested in front of his classmates, cuffed and placed into a police car, then taken to “jail” and forced to stay there for hours before the parent could come to get him out.
“They got him out of sixth hour,” the parent said. “They confirmed his name, then told him to turn around with hands behind his back and they cuffed him and took him to jail.”
The parents were warned that the student could be cited for more absences, but they say they were not warned that he could be taken to CIC.
“Parents need to make sure their kids are in school,” Hall said. “We try everything we can to avoid this kind of consequence, but we have to ensure their attendance.”