Sarasota County Sheriff's Office targets truancy

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SARASOTA COUNTY - The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office has launched a special effort to reduce truancy and keep track of students who have missed an excessive amount of school.

The Sheriff's Office created an initiative called Operation Bueller at the start of the 2012-2013 school year. Operation Bueller is a phased response plan using an intelligence-led approach that is designed to offer long-term solutions to the local truancy problem.

Initially, members of the Intelligence Unit worked with the Department of Juvenile Justice and school Truancy Officers to focus on juvenile probationers and ensure these students attend school. Youth Services Deputies make sure probationers attend school each day, and if they are absent, find them to find out why and take appropriate action.

Recently, the Sheriff's Office expanded this effort and worked with Sarasota County Schools to identify middle and high school students who had 10 or more unexcused absences in the first 30 days of school. Last Wednesday, the Sheriff’s Office, Sarasota Police Department, Venice Police Department and North Port Police Department visited 138 homes to try to determine what issues were keeping students home from school.

“The intent of the truancy initiative is to express the importance of school attendance and advise students and their parents that law enforcement is interested in their welfare and whereabouts,” said Sheriff Tom Knight. “We continuously work with the community to address the root causes of crime, and the goal of this collaborative effort is to steer these young people toward getting an education so they can be more successful in life.”

Parents whose children have excessive absences were directed to resources for help, including YMCA Family Management Services. Children who don’t go to school can be referred to Truancy Court and parents who do not make their kids attend school on a regular basis commit a 2nd degree misdemeanor.