The Fairbanks North Star Borough assembly passed a truancy ordinance last night. The ordinance lines out local policy addressing chronic unexcused absence from school including fines for repeated offenses.
The approved ordinance is less strict and cumbersome than one in state law. It reflects a request from the school board for a policy more aimed at getting students back in class, but many parents who testified at last night’s assembly meeting took offense.
Shalom Perkins, a mother of six, objected to the idea of government involvement in whether or not kids go to school. “The removal of parental rights from the decisions made about one’s children, especially with regards to their education, upbringing and beliefs is wrong,” she said.
Perkins expressed concern that the truancy policy, which must be approved by the school board, could later be amended to be more onerous. School Board member Sue Hull said school board board administrative regulations would be much more specific then the ordinance, but emphasized the need for local truancy regulations, especially for high school kids.
“Parents are often frustrated, as are teachers, that there aren’t some teeth. They see these kids that think they can pass without being in class and the teachers and others know they can’t, and then they get behind and end up dropping out of school. So staff as well as parents have asked that there be more teeth in our attendance policy so that kids would take it more seriously,” Hull said.
The truancy ordinance passed the assembly 7-1, with member Lance Roberts opposed. It now goes before the school board.
Among other business attended to by the assembly last night was passage of an ordinance amending local zoning to allow operation of alcohol distilleries in the downtown area. The change was prompted by local businessman who plans to start a small scale craft distillery and tasting room in the old Fairbanks City Hall building on Cushman Street.