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Court's school-attendance program focuses on compliance, not punishment


The goal of the Lorain County Juvenile Court’s school-attendance program is compliance rather than punishment.

About 4.5 percent of the 937 referrals to the program in the last school year didn’t respond to interventions, said Jody Barilla, court administrator. Nearly 4 percent of those cases — 36 students — were referred to the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office for truancy charges. Six adults were referred to the prosecutor for failure to send a child to school and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Barilla said court referrals by the program’s six attendance officers are a last resort. Attendance officers first meet with parents and students. “We do have quite a bit of success with that,” she said.

Charges aren’t usually referred to the court unless the student has 15 or more unexcused absences in a school year. “It gives the court a little bit more of a hammer to try to get them to school,” Barilla said.

Students sent to juvenile detention homes receive schooling in the home usually for just a few days.

“It’s really more to get their attention,” Barilla said, “to let them know how serious it is and how important it is that they attend school.”

A parent or guardian can be charged with contributing to unruliness or delinquency of a child if the child has been designated a chronic truant. Barilla said those charges are rare and usually elementary school students too young to get themselves to school without the help of an adult.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or

Truancy Laws

  • Children and their parents can face criminal charges over truancy.
  • A child with five or more consecutive absences, or seven or more in a month, or 12 in a year, is classified as a habitual truant.
  • A child with seven or more consecutive unexcused absences, or 10 in a month, or 15 or more in a school year, is classified as a chronic truant.
  • A child designated as a habitual truant can be charged under Ohio law with being an unruly child. Penalties include being placed in custody of the court, attendance at an alternative school, a driver’s license suspended, drug counseling, or up to 175 hours of community service.
  • A child classified as a chronic truant who previously was designated a habitual truant can be ordered into a truancy prevention program, have their driver’s license revoked or be committed to a juvenile detention home. The parent or guardian can be charged with contributing to unruliness or delinquency of a child, which is a first-degree misdemeanor. Each day of violations is a separate offense.

SOURCES: Lorain County Juvenile Court, Ohio Revised Code

Truancy Referrals

In the 2012-13 school year, the Lorain County Juvenile Court’s school-attendance program received 937 referrals from Lorain County school districts. Referrals involve students with at least five unexcused absences. About 4.5 percent were unresolved despite an intervention.

  • Avon Schools: 35
  • Avon Lake Schools: 17
  • Clearview Schools: 139
  • Columbia Schools: 34
  • Elyria Schools: 304
  • Firelands Schools: 29
  • Keystone Schools: 42
  • Midview Schools: 141
  • North Ridgeville Schools: 53
  • Oberlin Schools: 21
  • Sheffield-Sheffield Lake Schools: 62
  • Wellington Schools: 19
  • Lorain County Academy: 12
  • Lorain County Joint Vocational School:
  • Education Alternatives: 1
  • Positive Education Program: 2

* Lorain Schools, the county’s largest school district, did not contract with the program in 2012-13, but is taking part this school year.

SOURCE: Lorain County Juvenile Court

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