Courts Offer New Tool in Fight to Keep Truant Kids in School - 8 News NOW

Courts Offer New Tool in Fight to Keep Truant Kids in School

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LAS VEGAS - Jesus Trejo admits he hates school.

"I wasn't interested, and I didn't really like school and I just got out," he said. "I've been ditching and all that. I didn't really want to go to school."

The eighth grader at Jim Bridger Middle School started skipping class. He skipped school so often, he landed in the Department of Juvenile Justice Truancy Court.

A judge ordered Trejo to undergo 10 weeks of perfect attendance for every class without being late.

"No absences and no tardies, can you do it for two weeks? Can we get you out of here before you go to high school," the judge asked him.

Along with his books and supplies, Trejo must carry a court-issued cell phone to school. "It tracks me everywhere I go, like in classes, and if I stay in school," he said.

Trejo gets a wake-up call every morning at 6:30 a.m. He's one of 25 Clark County students taking part in the "Right Back on Track" program. Under the pilot project, chronically truant students are given a limited-use cell phone. The goal is to change their behavior by providing structure and accountability.

"The program that we have is an empowering program," said Judge Pro-Tem Mari Parlade. "We're not here to condemn the child or just cast them off."

Parlade hears three to four hundred cases a week. She says it's too early to tell if the program works, but preliminary results indicate some success.

"There are some stumbling blocks we have to address, but (for) the children who have the phones with them, it is excellent, because we're able to track and see where they're at," she said.

Even though Trejo still doesn't want to go to class, he's no longer thinking about skipping.

"If I wanted to ditch, I'd think about the phone. I just think that they're going to call me if they find out I ditched, so I just go to class," he said.

If Trejo maintains perfect attendance for the next two weeks, he'll graduate from the truancy program. After that, it's up to him to stay on track.

Many parents don't know they share responsibility for their child's attendance and can be charged and fined if a student doesn't shape up.

The pilot program doesn't cost the school district any money. It includes a mentor for each participant.

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