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Newly elected judge cracking down on truancy

DEE GOODIN • Jan 16, 2007 at 12:09 PM

JOHNSON CITY - Washington County students without a good excuse for skipping school don't have to wait to appear before the juvenile court judge - he's bringing the fight against truancy to them and their parents.

Judge Jim Nidiffer, elected in the Aug. 3 election to replace retiring Sessions Judge John L. Kiener, is cracking down on those appearing in his courtrooms and in classrooms as well.

He is telling students at Daniel Boone and David Crockett high schools about their individual responsibility to attend school and what happens once a juvenile is classified as a truant.

Nidiffer is using the long arm of the law to reach out and touch parents who may be going out the door to work while their school-age children continue to sleep.

"In most states, the law mandates students attend school until the age of 16," Nidiffer said. "But they also have laws on compulsory education, and noncompliance results in penalties for the parents or guardians."

According to Nidiffer, Tennessee law provides that a parent or guardian of a truant kindergarten through 12th-grade student can be fined up to $50 or sentenced to five days of community service.

Those who fail to make their children go to school can also face charges of child neglect or abuse.

But there are cases in which children are so unruly their parents have no control, the judge added.

"A child can be classified as unruly if the child is ‘habitually disobedient of the reasonable and lawful commands of the child's parent or guardian to the extent the child's health and safety are endangered, such as when the parent or guardian requires their child to attend school, and the child defiantly refuses.' "

Those who continue their unruly behavior will ultimately end up in the Juvenile Justice Division of the Department of Children's Services.

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