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Alaska Targets Truancy to Boost Rural Student Performance

Rural school districts in Alaska have joined others across the country opting to take legal action against parents, including sending them to jail, when kids are chronically absent from school.

The Alaska Dispatch reports that school districts there are taking a harder line against parents of truants in an effort to boost low-performing rural schools where they believe absenteeism is a factor.

One example: the Inupiat Eskimo village of Kivalina, population 388, where the Dispatch reports getting kids to class is a top priority this year for the Northwest Arctic Borough School District. Students in one school, McQueen, have failed to meet federal reading and writing standards for at least five straight years.

Jill Burke of the Dispatch writes:

"Heading into the 2010-2011 school year, the district is in an all-out push to help Kivalina turn things around, and getting kids to class is among the top priorities. On average, students there last year missed more than two months of classes. This year, if it happens again, parents have been warned it won't be children alone who find themselves dealing with the fallout."

Schools in states such as Texas, Alabama, California, and Oregon—including rural districts—also are taking the step of charging parents because of kids' chronic absenteeism.

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