OTTUMWA — The arrest this week of an adult woman on a charge of "truancy" is pretty rare in Wapello County. But it's not unheard of.
In 2011, there were six arrests for truancy in Ottumwa, said Police Chief Tom McAndrew. That's doubled, but is still low when compared with other crimes like violating a no contact order, OWI or theft, which may show up in police reports multiple times in a day.
"There were 12 last year, an average of one per month," said the chief. "Unfortunately, there are people in our society who believe their kids don't have to go to school. Usually we'll be contacted by the school or the juvenile authorities. The police department doesn't going searching for [parents with children who are] truant."
There are arrests, for example with a barking dog violation, that consist of a subject receiving a citation, which can be given to them at home or at the law center. Is this that kind of arrest or are parents actually taken away in cuffs?
"If someone is arrested and transported in a squad car to the [law center], they are handcuffed," said McAndrew.
McAndrew said a quick look at records would show that many of the parents arrested for truancy had other criminal charges against them. The most recent arrest showed the parent was taken into custody, and held in jail.
Pressing charges against a parent — charges are not pressed on the truant student — is not a common solution for the school district, say administrators.
"It is the very last option," said Davis Eidahl, superintendent of Ottumwa schools. "It's hard to get [a case] to the point of involving the law."
What they would rather do, he said, is work with the responsible guardian to get the child to come to school.