Rockford's school district and lawmakers have a new tool in the fight against truancy. There's a new state law that gives all local communities the power to pass ordinances that regulate students who miss school without a valid excuse.
"Up until now the school district has had no enforcement power, nor has the city with students who are absent from school with unexcused reasons," Superintendent Dr. Dennis Thompson said.
Rockford Mayor Karry Morrissey is already working on a draft for a new truancy ordinance. He may ask city council to change the number of days a student must miss school before he or she is considered truant. Currently they can miss up to 18 days before courts get involved.
"The ordinance will be defining what is a violation and outlining penalties and identifying the hearing process," Mayor Larry Morrissey said.
The law allows punishments of community service or fines up to $100 for both truant students and their parents.
"There's a lot of parents who aren't watching their kids. I know where my son is all the time and I think parents need to be responsible as to where their children are," Rodlynne Nevitt, a concerned mom, said.
Education leaders hope punishments for truancy will prevent much bigger problems later in life.
"The vast number of people in our jails have to do with substance abuse or illiteracy," Dr. Thompson said.
It also affects school funding. Rockford schools lose state funding on every student that doesn't show up for class.