By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
Teachers from Tucumcari, San Jon, Logan and House will start their school year Aug. 11 with a two-hour workshop on truancy and child abuse as they gather in preparation for the new school year.
Neither subject is new with teachers, but this year, the Tenth Judicial District Attorney’s office has begun an effort to coordinate the efforts of educators, police agencies and the state’s Children, Youth and Families Department in meeting these challenges.
Details of the teachers’ workshop are still being drawn up, Tucumcari Pulbic Schools Superintendent Aaron McKinney said, but representatives from education, law enforcement and child welfare will offer presentations to help educators deal with truancy and learn some signs of other kinds of abuse that students may face outside the school.
While educators, law enforcement and child welfare agencies deal with truancy and child abuse issues, they have not worked together closely on them, Matt Montoya, the district attorney’s investigator who has spearheaded the uniting of efforts, said. For nearly a year, he said, representatives of all the groups have formed a truancy and abuse team and are meeting monthly to discuss common issues and go over active cases.
Montoya said he is grateful that District Attorney Tim Rose has supported the effort and cleared Montoya to organize the monthly sessions.
At a meeting last Wednesday, the group discussed the state’s truancy enforcement procedures, which, all agreed, are complex and exacting. As a result, McKinney said, truancy laws are seldom enforced.
Group discussion addressed issues such as when law enforcement should accompany school officials on home visits to families of students who repeatedly miss school.
Too often in the past, McKinney said, the school district had gotten no response from law enforcement on requests for assistance in curtailing chronic truancy, and he said he is very encouraged at the unprecedented cooperation among the agencies represented on the team.