April 16, 2015

Tribe cracks down on truancy


By Jerry W. Kram

If you ask teachers what their biggest challenge is in the classrooms across the Fort Berthold Reservation, attendance will be at or near the top of every list. Truancy has been a challenge for area schools for years and educators have looked to the tribe and community for help in encouraging students to get to school on time. This week, some of those efforts will start to bear fruit.

At the regular meeting of the New Town School Board on Wednesday, Elementary Principal Dan Anderson, Middle School Principal Andrew De’Couteau and High School Principal John Gartner reported that this week, the schools and tribal juvenile justice officials will start meeting with parents of chronically truant students to see if arrangements can be made to fix the problems. Gartner said the first meetings will be just to let the parents know how serious the problems are. However, if the students continue to cut school, parents and guardians could find themselves in front of a family court judge.

"With the younger students, parents could find themselves charged with educational neglect," Gartner said. "With the older students, the kids could be in juvenile court as unruly child charges."

All three principals emphasized that they didn’t want to see families hauled into court. Their goal was see that all of the children on Fort Berthold take advantage of the educational opportunities they have so they can get better jobs or go onto college if they want. They want to see the 40 to 60 percent of students who currently drop out stay in school and pick up their diplomas.

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