Parents face jail time over truant children

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A central Indiana judge is sending a strong warning to parents, threatening jail time if their children don't show up at school.

"I'm scared to death," said 40-year-old Carrie Swafford.

That's because the Muncie mother is facing three years in prison because her 14-year-old daughter has already missed 29 days of school this year.

"She just didn't want to go. So it was a struggle, but the school was aware of that," Swafford explained. "We had meetings."

Swafford admitted she hasn't been mother of the year, but said she can only do so much.

"I can get her on the bus. I can get her where she needs to go, but I can't make her go into school," Swafford said.

Swafford isn't the only parent looking at jail time, though. The Delaware County Prosecutor's Office filed charges in four truancy cases involving parents last fall.

"My goal isn't to put people in jail. My goal is to resolve whatever problem is going on in getting these kids to school," explained Delaware County Prosecutor Jeff Arnold. "If I have to press charges to get somebody's attention to do that, I'll do that."

Arnold said the bottom line is that it's neglect when children repeatedly miss school.

"I'm looking at parents that are too lazy to get their kids up in the morning, get 'em fed and on a bus and just don't care," said Arnold of the cases he's ready prosecute.

Swafford says despite her past mistakes, she's not that parent.

"This year, I've done everything I could do," said Swafford.

Delaware County isn't the only county cracking down. Last year in Marion County, charges were filed against 126 parents for not sending their kids to school.

Twenty-five parents successfully completed a diversion program and six were dismissed for various reasons, such as a legitimate medical issue that caused numerous absences or home schooling.

According to the prosecutor's office, in almost all of the cases, the child's absences decreased after charges were filed.

For the past two years, the Marion County Prosecutor's Office has partnered with Butler University's School of Education to provide a free, six-week class for parents and their children as part of the diversion program for parents who have been charged with failure to ensure school attendance.