Policeman takes girl to school each day
By JOHN HARTEVELT – The Press | Monday, 04 August 2008
A Christchurch mother has been prosecuted over her daughter’s truancy in the first Canterbury case before the courts under a new scheme designed to cut wagging.
The mother of the 14-year-old Linwood College student was given a six-month suspended sentence on Thursday in the Christchurch District Court.
If the student is caught wagging again within the next six months, the woman will go back to court and be sentenced again.
Police are so keen to prevent the student going astray again that an officer is taking her to school each morning.
The police district co-ordinator of youth services, Senior Sergeant John Robinson, who is doing the daily pick-up, said the girl had been getting her schooling back on track.
She had told him her relationship with her mother had improved, and she was enjoying being back in school.
“Like any programme, there are plenty that we’ve got hassles with, but currently she’s doing really, really well. I’m exceptionally proud of her,” Robinson said.
The girl’s mother went to work early, and Robinson said he was happy to do the school run to get the girl back in the habit of going to school.
“If it’s what it takes to get her back engaged in school, then that’s great. It’s really, really good,” he said.
Parents have been prosecuted over truant children in the past, but this is the first case to have been brought in Canterbury under a new scheme called Rock On, which has six steps before a prosecution is made.
The girl’s mother was sent two letters from Linwood College. “And then there’s a knock on the door by the police, who serve a letter,” Robinson said.
The district truancy service takes the matter to the school.
“There’s an informal conference held at the school, where some of the agencies get together, along with the school, and discuss what the issues are.”
A further letter was sent informing the mother there would be a family group conference.
The family group conference put in place a series of steps, and when those failed to work the prosecution was made.
“We don’t want to prosecute parents for not having their kids at school, but we also want them to buy in to the process to get their kids ultimately re-engaged back in to school,” Robinson said.
The scheme was designed as a 16-week programme but had dragged on longer, he said.
Linwood College principal Rob Burrough said the student was back at school and doing well.
“She’s not a bad kid; it’s just she hadn’t been turning up to school,” he said. “Sometimes the tough-love approach is the best way because it is a shock to students when mum or dad is going to get prosecuted because they’re not going to school.”
He was delighted with the support of the police in taking the girl to school each day.
“They haven’t just dumped her. I knew he was doing that, and it’s great,” Burrough said.
Linwood is one of six schools in Christchurch trialling the Rock On scheme.
Robinson said further prosecutions were likely, with many students going through the family group conference stage.