As another school year comes to a close across Linn County, the Linn County Attorney’s Office is pleased to announce that its Truancy Deferred Prosecution Program has successfully resulted in 77 kids returning to school regularly.
Assistant Linn County Attorney Nina Sheller created the Truancy Deferred Prosecution Program in 2019 after seeing an opportunity to use the criminal justice system to help kids get back to school by engaging with their parents and focusing on school attendance as the optimal outcome as opposed to fines and/or jail time for parents. Sheller started this program while she was a misdemeanor attorney in the Criminal Division but asked to continue working on the program when she was reassigned to the Juvenile Division.
Over the course of the last year, from May 2021 to the end of this school year in May 2022, the Linn County Attorney’s Office opened 164 truancy prosecutions against the parents of children reported as habitually truant by the school districts. Of those cases, 56 cases have been dismissed due to improved school attendance resulting in 77 kids returning to school regularly. (Given that many of the cases against parents involved multiple children, the actual number of kids returning to school was more than the number of cases dismissed). Sheller monitors progress for 3-6 months, sometimes longer, to ensure the return to school progress is consistent.
Overall, from May 2021 through May 2022, 74 cases have been dismissed, including the 56 cases dismissed due to improved school attendance, eight being dismissed due to the child’s behavior causing a barrier to returning to school, seven being dismissed due to families moving, two because of a mistake by the school, and one due to a special circumstance. Ten cases resulted in guilty pleas by the parents for not completing the deferred prosecution successfully. This results in a 2/3 or 66% success rate in returning kids to school.
At this time, 80 cases remain open and are being monitored.
“These numbers show that our truancy docket is accomplishing the goal of getting kids back to school regularly without having to resort to fining or jailing their parents,” said Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks. “I think this is the definition of success for these struggling families and a win for the education of kids.”