A public school official in Florida has urged citizens to fight truancy by reporting any children they suspect might not be in school or being educated — including homeschool families.
It is all part of an “anti-truancy” initiative called Operation Round Up, in which residents of Jackson County, Florida, are urged to be on the lookout for children not in school and to report them to school officials or to police.
A truancy report can lead to a home check by sheriff’s deputies or police and possibly the arrest of the parents, TV station WJHG reported.
The policy of the Jackson County School District is to send law enforcement to the homes of suspected truants.
“Sometimes if these citizens don’t call me, I have no way of knowing,” Shirl Williams, director of student services for the school system, told the TV station. “So if it’s a nosy neighbor, be a nosy neighbor. Just call me and let me check out the situation.”
Williams acknowledged that homeschool children can be mistaken for truants but urged citizens to report them so school authorities can investigate.
“Sometimes the community will see them around town and they think, ‘Hey, they’re not being educated.’ Sometimes the community is right,” Williams said.
Home School Legal Defense Association attorney TJ Schmidt wrote Williams and the Jackson County superintendent, saying that while truancy is a problem, homeschoolers should not be targeted.
“Your statements suggest that everyone should report children they think aren’t being educated,” the letter read. “In our opinion, this is a threatening practice, and will instill a spirit of suspicion and hostility against homeschoolers in the community.”
Schmidt wrote to Williams after a parent saw her on TV and complained to HSDLA.
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