Levying dropout fines unlikely: officials

Not happening under existing under-16 rule


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Will parents be fined because their kids aren't in school up to age 18?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/11/2010 (4505 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Will parents be fined because their kids aren’t in school up to age 18?

Not likely, say senior school division educators.

Nor can they recall any parents being fined in recent years because their kids under 16 weren’t attending school.

Education Minister Nancy Allan says the government’s plans to force students to stay in school until 18 or graduation will carry penalties for parents whose kids don’t comply.

There’s already a $500 fine for parents whose children under 16 aren’t in school, and Allan says that could double after consultation over the next few months.

But, say Allan’s own bureaucrats, “We are not aware of any recent referrals to the courts.”

The province says it’s up to school divisions to go to the Crown and ask for charges when kids are not attending school.

“We have not in recent years taken parents to court for not having children in school under 16,” said Lawrence Lussier, superintendent in Pembina Trails S.D.

“We haven’t prosecuted. I’d be surprised if anyone has,” Seven Oaks superintendent Brian O’Leary said.

St. James-Assiniboia superintendent Ron Weston says the division hasn’t prosecuted parents in his nine years, and no staffers can remember any before his time. He has vague memories of a prosecution somewhere in rural Manitoba in the early 1980s, said Weston.

“We have not brought charges against any parents,” said an official with River East Transcona S.D. “We have tried to work in a collaborative fashion with parents to ensure that students attend. We have used our attendance monitor to visit homes and even transport students to the schools on occasion. We have provided counselling and support where appropriate. “Almost always in extreme poor attendance situations, parents are also struggling. The only real chance for success comes from partnering with them in an effort to address the issues that are problematic,” she said.

Winnipeg S.D. cannot remember the last time it prosecuted a parent.

O’Leary said parents are trying to get their kids to go to school.

“Issues of chronic absenteeism are usually dealt with on a problem-solving basis, sometimes involving social service agencies (Child and Family Services, MacDonald Youth Service),” O’Leary said.

“Often, in cases of chronic absenteeism, the parent is doing everything they can. We need to work with them. I would hope that this change strengthens the message that parents are able to give their kids, but I don’t think we’ll see many cases before the courts,” he said.

Weston pointed to the division’s Second Start program at Jameswood Alternative School as an effort to reach potential dropouts. “There’s been a real effort by our principals,” he said.

“Students will sometimes leave school partway through a semester, often because of their lack of attendance. They usually enroll the next semester. Students who don’t graduate will simply not return. Students fade out more than drop out,” O’Leary said.

Seven Oaks S.D.’s MET School inside Garden City Collegiate is a success story that places students in internships, O’Leary said.

“The experience of the MET schools and the Bright Futures Program show us that we can raise graduation rates dramatically with significant mentoring, tutoring and parent support.


Numbers elusive

How many potential dropouts will be forced to stay in school if the Selinger government raises the age of compuslory school attendance to 18 before the next school year?

The short answer is no one knows. The province tracks graduation rates, but not dropouts.

It’s tough to track students who turn 16 then choose to leave school, says River East Transcona School Division.

Many variables can complicate the data, said a division official: “Out-of-province and First Nations schools do not always request our students’ files, students leave and then return the next year, etc. We have started to collect some information but it is too preliminary to form an accurate picture.”

St. James-Assiniboia School Division has been tracking dropouts for the last 20 years. The annual average of students 16 and over dropping out is 5.7 per cent, though some may return to finish school.

The province says there will be 29,856 students 16 to 18 expected in school this coming September, and 29,757 in September 2011, which, based on SJASD numbers, suggests several thousand potential dropouts.

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