How Skipping School Could Land Kids in Jail

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image001From the Center for Public Integrity and

One 15-year-old was jailed overnight just after pleading guilty to truancy. Then she spent a week in a psychiatric hospital.  Another girl was jailed twice for truancy probation violations—the second time after being arrested while attending classes at her high school.  Neither of these low-income teens in Knoxville, Tenn. had the constitutional right to appointed legal representation when they first set foot in court. But before any jailing occurred, the girls certainly had a federal right to appointed counsel.  Allegations that these and many other kids’ rights were violated in Tennessee are part of broader national concerns that thousands of non-criminal “status offenders” are being funneled into courts—which don’t always ensure that kids have defense attorneys, according to a recent piece by the Center for Public Integrity.  In Knoxville, a judge refused to allow pro bono lawyers to volunteer to offer counsel to truants as they arrive at court. And he refused to release detention records to attorneys who are suing to change the system—and want to know exactly many truants and other status offenders may have been declared delinquents and put into detention, perhaps without legal defense. The story was also carried by

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