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Board fetes fighters of truancy
The Ceres Unified School District issued public kudos Thursday to two county court officials for their help in battling chronic truancy in Ceres classrooms.

Deputy District Attorney Jared Carrillo and Stanislaus County Superior Court's Juvenile Division Judge Linda McFadden assisted CUSD in getting absentee students back in the classroom. CUSD officials said that Carrillo is dedicated to battling truancy as he commits his time each Monday to present the violation of SARB cases to Judge McFadden.

McFadden is one of two judges in the Juvenile Court and she, too, dedicates her time to the cases that effect Ceres Unified. Her expertise and knowledge of juvenile law allows her to best prescribe the appropriate sentence for the juvenile and/or parent.

"She is passionate about getting these kids back in school. Parents who continually allow their children to be absent from school may be served with a jail sentence of up to 60 days. Students are also served with other such sentences appropriate to their age and circumstance.

CUSD is holding parents accountable for truancy of their students in schools, taking them to court, and fining them for allowing their children to become habitual truants with the assistance of the District Attorney's Office and the judicial system.

"Parents of students who are consistently absent are subject to fines and possible criminal penalties," explained Brian Chandler, CUSD Attendance Officer.

When attendance does not improve after the one-on-one meeting with parents, a School Attendance Review Board (SARB) hearing is scheduled, which must be attended by the student and parents. The SARB panel - which consists of interested parents, community members, community agency employees, and CUSD employees - determines a required level of improved attendance by the student. If the student meets this requirement, no further action is required.

If poor attendance continues, criminal charges are filed in Superior Court against the parents and/or student. CUSD filed 30 cases in the 2008-09 school year for truancy. Possible penalties include, but are not limited to, fines, imposition of informal probation, and further criminal charges if poor attendance continues.

Three unexcused absences during a school year classifies a student as truant. A letter is mailed to the home, notifying the parent of the problem. If a student should accrue any additional unexcused absences, the student will be considered habitual truant and a pre-SARB meeting will be scheduled.

As judge, McFadden presides on all SARB related cases. She has ordered fines to be paid if applicable, or placed parents and their students on probation for violation of SARB directives. In drastic cases she can suspend the drivers license of offending juveniles or put them on house arrest.