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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Go to school or go to jail -- one year into a strict new truancy program in Harrison County, WDRB investigates the results. Is it really keeping students in the classroom?
Grace Enlow sits at the front of her first grade class. This year, more of Grace's classmates are attending Corydon Elementary.
Principal Tamela Brewer explains, "We had students prior to that program that would have 20, 30, 40 days of being absent." Brewer says the numbers dropped dramatically after the September 2012 launch of the " Get 'Em in the classroom" campaign.
Harrison County prosecutor Otto Schalk cracked down on truancy at the elementary level, which sometimes had rates of 40-50 percent. The problem: the county's truancy court only applied to middle and high schoolers, so Schalk started personally calling parents of habitually absent students in kindergarten to sixth grade. He explains, "I'm very clear with them the first meeting is friendly and informative, the second one is across the hall in the courtroom."
It is a wake-up call, as 10 unexcused absences could be a felony for the parents. When asked how many of those meetings he's had, he said, "I've had close to, if not more than 100."
Carrie Wisman became a public lesson -- the first arrested, charged with neglect for not getting her daughter to class. Teacher Angela Miller says, "Where they're missing a lot of school. they're not learning, they're not getting what we have. You can send homework, but it's not the same as being in class."
Next week Schalk says he will mail a letter to re-introduce the program to Harrison County parents. It offers clearer explanations on what's excused -- doctor's notes, bereavement, and court orders.
As Grace puts it, she knows it's important to come to school, "Because if you don't come to school than you don't get a prize."