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Huntsville Absence Policy Costly

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When a student misses school, it costs the district money from the state, and hinders the child's education.

But Huntsville parents say they are being fined hundreds of dollars even when the absence is appropriate and documented by a note.

"I think this is very excessive, very punitive and it's just wrong," says Parent Brenda Alexander.

Alexander is facing a fine of up to $500 because her son was absent from Huntsville High School for more than five days.

Alexander says a doctor's note was provided, but it didn't matter.

"I just don't understand this. I mean the parent is left out of the loop," says Alexander.

Alexander is not alone.

Parent Liz Savell also got a ticket when her son was absent from school because he was sick.

Savell thinks the school is more concerned about money than her child.

145 citations have already been issued at the high school this year but that's 64 fewer than last year.

The assistant superintendent says that's proof the policy works.

"The citations do seem to work and we don't have a lot of problems with repeat citations," says John DeBock.

DeBock says the policy is if a student has 5 unexcused absences, a ticket is written. At that point it's up to the judge to issue punishment if the student pleads guilty.

But DeBock also says if a parent's note or doctor's note is received in advance of the absence or before the five days, a ticket isn't issued.

"There are so many reasons a child can be absent from school and we try to cut the parents a little bit of slack before law enforcement gets involved," says DeBock.

Alexander and Savell says the opposite.

Both say they were never informed before the citation was written that there was a problem.

Alexander received a warning letter on the same day as the citation.

Now both parents along with their kids will go before the judge to plea their case.

Under the state's Compulsory Attendance Law, parents are responsible for the attendance of their children and if the child is absent without adequate documentation for three or more days in a four-week period or ten or more days or parts of days in a six-month period, they can be charged with a Class C Misdemeanor.

If convicted, the fine is up to $500 per day the child is absent all or part of the day.

Money from those citations goes to the city of Huntsville and the school.

Policies vary between districts.

Bryan I.S.D. says students are allowed 10 unexcused absences before a judge levies community service, but parents are never fined.

College Station says it does not issue citations, period.