Truancy Bill Part 3: Sample Letter
Please read Part 1 and Part 2 for more information on this topic, including contact information and instructions for contacting the Governor's office.
Below is a sample letter for parents, advocates, etc to utilize in order to contact the Governor's office about this issue. You can (and should) personalize this letter prior to sending it.
INSERT YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION
INSERT THE GOVERNOR'S CONTACT INFO (See Part 2 of this series)
Re: SB 1317 / Please Veto
Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:
I am writing to request that you veto SB 1317, the truancy bill authored by Senator Leno. There are already serious penalties for parents who neglect their children, a concept which includes failure to ensure that the child is educated. Since this bill comes into play with a student who has missed 10% of the year to date, depending on the time of year, it could be applied based on a small number of absences. It is vague in defining parent fault: it applies to a parent "who has failed to reasonably supervise and encourage the pupil's school attendance." It does not set forth any exception for parents who are not currently encouraging school attendance for very good reasons. It could easily be interpreted to make absences that do not fall within the narrow excuse categories recognized by law, regardless of the reasons for those absences, a serious offense capable of wreaking financial havoc through large fines and separating families by jailing parents. Students miss school for many reasons, some obviously bad and some of which may represent the best choices in bad circumstances. Their out of school activities range from committing juvenile offenses to caring for sick siblings to watching TV to receiving intensive educational services for 30-40 hours per week at their parents' expense. This bill treats very different types of "truancy" the same. It could easily worsen the problems that lead to absences.
While the theory seems to be that prosecutors will use discretion wisely, it is not realistic to expect that they will be able to investigate reasons for truancy in each case, and this bill does not require them to. Alternatives to punishment are optional. Though the bill does not apply to home schoolers who intend to home school and provide appropriate paperwork from day one, it would greatly endanger parents forced into informal homeschooling by absence of appropriate special education services or by bullying midway through the school year. Districts in special education disputes would attempt to apply it to students who are in tutoring programs that are not certified as schools. This bill would empower administrators who refuse needed services or who dismiss complaints about bullying and harassment without adequate investigation. It would allow oppositional teenagers to create massive legal problems for their parents. It would terrify parents who have good faith, reasonable beliefs that their child needs to be removed temporarily from school until problems are discussed and addressed, and could frighten them out of taking steps which are necessary for their children's progress and even safety.
Please work this budget year on protecting school funding, and figuring out how parents and teachers can work together to do more with less. Please veto this measure which would instead pit schools and parents against each other.