Remember back in the day when some students had such lame excuses as "the dog ate my homework?"
Well, this year with thousands of Memphis children being counted as "no shows” since the start of school the Shelby County School Board is ready to publicly "call out" parents who've come up with their own set of excuses as to why their children are not in the classroom.
When the bell sounded for the first day of school this year, Portia Crawford, made sure her 14-year-old son Tyler had everything he needed. As a parent, she wasn't going to wait for somebody else to do it for her.
“I just think it's some of the mothers relying on churches and communities because they know that some of the people have back to school drives and they're getting uniforms for kids,” says Portia Crawford. “They're getting school supplies. So, they're relying on that.”
But, the Shelby County School Board and the Shelby County District Attorney General's office has a message for an estimated 10-thousand parental procrastinators....get your children registered and in school now or face someunpleasant consequences leveled at you due to your child's truancy.
“They can be jailed,” says DA Amy Weirich. “They can be sent to the penal farm for 10 days consecutive for every five days. So, where you're talking about 40, 60 days truant, that's a lot of time behind bars for mom and dad potentially.”
SCS board member Kevin Woods first hinted at, weeks before schools opened in August, the potential for a "tsunami of truancy" among Shelby County students. So how was the number of 10-thousand arrived at?
SCS School Board member Kevin Woods says, “That's about the number that we've been in communication with as far as the number of kids who have yet to register for school, based on our records of how many kids are in Shelby county and should be in school right now.”
Woods says historically thousands of students have annually failed to show up for the opening of schools in Memphis, either because their parents couldn't afford the uniforms and schools supplies, or because some parents still regard Labor Day as the beginning of the school year. But, this time Superintendent Dorsey Hopson and the board want the practice to come to an end by taking to broadcast airways.
“He wants to get in front of it and have board members start talking about it. And let folks know this is a serious problem,” said Woods. “He's preparing a list of radio stations and TV stations. He's going to be reaching out to make this even more public.”
Woods also notes, for those looking for help for uniforms or clothing a major civic organization is stepping in to help with donations.
“Boys and Girls Club is doing an event this week to support that cause, but, we believe the majority of kids who haven't reported to school is simple, its tradition,” said Woods.
But, some feel "tradition" has nothing to do with truancy. They feel it's the failure of parents to assume responsibility for their child's education.
“They can go get their hair on they head,” says Crawford. “They can go and get their nails done. Why not get the school supplies for the kids. Or why not get the uniforms for the kids?”
Weirich says, “There is no excuse. An education is the best gift that we as parents can give to our children and we've got to work together to make sure that happens.”
The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Memphis Young Professionals is holding a school supply, clothing collection drive and mixer to be held from 5 to 8 pm on Friday.
And the Boys and Girls Club is accepting donations for the school drive at its Central office at 44 South Rembert Street in Memphis.