Playing Hooky

Coming to a school district near you?

Coming to a school district near you?

One of the things I do in my never-ending quest for story ideas is to scan requests to the Texas Attorney General Office for opinions on points of law. Yes, I know I need a social life. Most of these requests revolve around procedural matters or whether a certain government body has the authority to do one thing or another. Most of it is pretty bland, but this week one request caught my eye. The Brazos County Attorney (Bryan/College Station area) is asking whether a Justice of the Peace has the authority to order a chronically truant student to wear an ankle monitoring bracelet. This piqued my interest because ankle monitoring bracelets are usually used for people who are considered flight risks, high risk sex offenders, those under house arrest or anyone under some type of court ordered monitoring. Brazos County Justice of the Peace Tommy Munoz announced plans to institute this punishment for students who are chronically truant. No, not the kids who skip a day or two to head to lake Somerville, but those who reguarly skip school and are affiliated with a gang, have a history of behavior problems, etc. According to the Judge’s news release the bracelets would monitor students’ exact whereabouts 24/7. However, the program is now on hold while the County waits on a ruling from the AG’s Office. The reason for the request is because Justices of the Peace have authority over those crimes punishable by fines only. Skipping school is a Class C misdemeanor, basically the same as a speeding ticket. So ordering a kid to wear a monitoring bracelet goes well beyond a fine, hence the request for an opinion. I did a little digging and it turns out this is not a new idea. Bexar County and Midland County already launched pilot programs this year. Both Counties report the monitoring bracelets have, so far, led to a big reduction in chronically truant students cutting class. However, if the AG determines Justices of the Peace do not have the authority to order students to wear monitoring bracelets then the programs will have to stop. If the AG goes the other way then this type of monitoring could start popping up in more places. With that in mind I checked around Harris County. HISD’s acting Press Secretary, Norm Uhl, says no one in the District has floated the idea. I then checked with Harris County Justice of the Peace Dale Gorczynski, he handles A LOT of juvenile cases. Officials with Judge’s Office say he is not too keen on the idea and rejected as too controversial and burdensome. I’m curious what you think about 24/7 monitoring of chronically truant kids.

Request for AG opinion from Brazos County:



One Response

  1. “Yes, I know I need a social life.” You’re funny, Robert Arnold. If Martha Stewart could wear one, why not the kids tied to gangs? Seriously, though, if the monitoring anklets are concealed by pants, what’s the big deal? If it keeps more of these students in school, I’m all for it. Must we always wait until AFTER something bad happens? Hopefully, the thought of actually being tracked is enough to scare them into doing the right thing. Interesting story…

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