NORRISTOWN — Law enforcement officials arrested 33 parents on Saturday, Dec. 16, to emphasize that truancy will not be tolerated.
While the majority of families involved with the Norristown Truancy Abatement Initiative — which is designed to address student truancy in the Norristown Area School District — have been responsive and positive about addressing their children’s unexcused absences, the parents who did not respond to final court notices were served bench warrants and arrested.
The arrests were a coordinated effort by the Norristown Police Department, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and District Justice Ester Casillo.
“This coordinated effort resulted in 33 arrests. There are numerous other households that have bench warrants outstanding,” said Norristown Police Lt. Kevin McKeon, commander of criminal investigations. “I strongly suggest that parents who have outstanding warrants go to District Court and respond to this court notice, as warrants will be enforced on an ongoing basis.”
Casillo said parents and youth should be aware that unexcused absences from school, as well as failure to appear for a truancy hearing, will not be tolerated.
“Once a citation for truancy is issued by this court, it is no longer a school issue but rather a court issue,” Casillo said. “Parents who fail to respond to citations issued by the court will he held accountable. It is the right of all children of mandatory school age to receive a quality education and be provided with the skills to graduate and succeed in life.”
“People that have been issued letters from the Norristown police department and the district justice should contact the district justice as soon as possible,” McKeon said.
“Truancy is defined as any unexcused absence from school and is strongly related to many troubling factors facing kids,” said Norristown Police Chief Russell Bono.
Truant students are at very high risk of dropping out of school, substance abuse, risky sexual activity, suicide attempts and involvement in violence, Bono said. The William Penn Foundation and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency through Norristown Weed and Seed fund the initiative.
“Our goal is to get kids back into school,” said McKeon. “The only way Norristown is going to come back is to educate our youth. Norristown and the police department understand that.”