ALBANY, Ga. -- Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards says truancy in the public schools is nothing but trouble for students and the community and it's time to do something about it.
Edwards offered an example of those troubles in the form of a grand jury indictment for statutory rape. According to the indictment Wednesday, Kevin Antron Harper, 31, is accused of having sexual relations with a 12-year-old girl on Dec. 20.
"She was supposed to be in school," Edwards said. "He mother drove her to the bus stop, but (the girl) didn't get on the bus. Instead she became collateral damage in a truancy issue."
Georgia law requires all children between the ages of 6 and 16 to attend school during normal hours, and Edwards said when that doesn't happen the parent can be prosecuted in criminal court or the child can be prosecuted in juvenile court. Unfortunately, the problem may be bigger than current resources available to attack it.
"These students are skipping school illegally," Edwards said. "They gravitate toward hanging out in people's houses. Often in those situations, kids commit crimes or become victims themselves."
Edwards advocates uniformed, full-time truancy officers to help solve the problem, and at a Tuesday meeting of the Student Attendance Protocol Committee, members were in agreement.
The committee is made up of all the county judges, Edwards said, as well as law enforcement officials, school board members, health officials and others. According to Edwards, the committee meets at least twice each year.
"Because of cases like (Harper's), the committee has agreed we have to crack down hard," Edwards said.