(12/14/2011)
A circuit judge says state lawmakers will be asked in the upcoming regular session to approve a bill changing the child neglect, child abuse law to deal with school absences.

Judge Alan Moats says language in the current code is vague. He says parents need to be held more responsible for letting their children miss a lot of school.

"Neglect also includes chronic failure of a parent to have their child in school," Moats said.

The current law says child neglect and abuse happens when physical or mental health is harmed by failure to provide education, but Moats says the language isn't clear enough.

"There's no strong state policy on that and that's pretty apparent when it's rare to ever see a case in court for neglect brought by the state Department of Education for educational neglect," Moats said.

Moats and Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis have held various hearings across the state in recent months dealing with truancy issues. They met with state lawmakers Tuesday.

Moats says children have a constitutional right to an education. He says unfortunately many times their parents keep them out of school and deny them that right. He says then children don't believe education is important and end up being dropouts and many end up getting into criminal trouble.

"I believe we need to change the way we look at this in this state," Judge Moats told lawmakers. "And if we start now, maybe in four or five years from now, when these kids are in middle school, they can have a foundation. It is going to take a few years to work through this."


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