Woodfin tells parents to get your children to school
Mayor Randall Woodfin said Tuesday that Birmingham schools have unusually large numbers of truant students and, if he has to, he’ll push for parents to be held legally accountable for allowing their children to stay home from school.
Ten weeks into the school year, well more than half of third graders are considered truants, which means they have seven or more unexcused absences, Woodfin said.
“It’s unacceptable,” Woodfin said. “Teachers cannot teach your child if they are not in class.”
He said as much in a social media post Monday, encouraging adults to make sure their children attended school.
“You would have thought I slapped somebody,” he told the City Council in its Tuesday meeting, “because a lot of people lost their mind.”
He said he thought people were not paying attention to the word “unexcused” in his comments. Of course children get sick or have problems, but he said that’s not what he’s talking about. He’s talking about kids who just don’t show up.
Tuesday, he doubled down on his comments despite the backlash.
Woodfin said he’s talked with the Jefferson County district attorney, because truancy is a crime for which parents or guardians can be held responsible. He’s also talked with officials at the Birmingham Housing Authority, because adults who don’t send their children to school are putting their housing at risk.
“I don’t want to put any energy or coordinated effort with engaging the DA’s office or the housing authority to threaten parents to do what they are responsible for for their child,” Woodfin said. “But I will.”
The issue is more important than usual this year because children in third grade will be forced to repeat the grade if they do not pass reading tests in the spring. The instinct is to blame teachers, he pointed out. But he said teachers cannot be held responsible if children don’t show up for schools.
Woodfin said he was putting on notice parents who consistently allow their child to be absent without reason.
Several members of the council agreed. Councilor Crystal Smitherman pointed out that brown and black kids will be most affected when children are held back later this school year.