Senate Panel Passes Bill to Decriminalize Truancy

Texas is nearly unique among the 50 states in imposing criminal penalties for truancy, but that would change under a bill proposed by Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) that was heard Tuesday and immediately approved by the state Senate Criminal Justice Committee. Whitmire’s committee substitute for SB 6 would make truancy a civil offense and set out extensive procedural safeguards for students and parents targeted for truancy violations. These provisions include requirements that districts use state-prescribed truancy-prevention measures and face sanctions to be determined by the Texas Education Agency if they fail to follow state requirements. The bill would reverse a decision made by the legislature 20 years ago to make truancy violations a misdemeanor criminal offense.