‘Operation Safe Serve’ allows parents to get a court date to address their children’s absence from school

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- When the school bell rings, not everyone is headed to class.

Right now, hundreds of students in Shelby County Schools are missing.

They rarely show up or have missed so many days, their parents have been summoned to court.

"At the current moment, we have 211 criminal summons," said Megan Pietrowski with the Shelby County District Attorney's Office.

We caught up with one mother, whose 17-year-old daughter has missed weeks of high school.

"I think she missed 3 weeks when I was in the hospital,' said the mother.

She told us her daughter was out of school because she wanted to be with her mom after an accident last month.

"I have been communicating with the lady in the office that does attendance," she said.

Yet, things were never settled and this mom is among 211 being summoned to court to explain.

The process starts afer 5 unexcused absences in one school year.

"The 5 day mark is when we intervene. It's state law, but if they continue to build the unexplained absences and they hit the 10 day mark and the parents still won't comply, that is when we issue a court summons," said Pietrowski.

If parents ignore calls, emails, and letters home they risk being arrested.

Judge Loyce Lambert Ryan hears the cases.

"Most people don't understand it is a breach of the law of the State of Tennessee for your child to have 5 unexcused absences," said Ryan.

The penalty for non-attendance is a $50 fine and 10 days in jail per absence.

Operation Safe Serve is a way for parents to make amends.

The Shelby County District Attorney's Office is working with others to let parents pick up their court summons and find out when their cases will be heard.

"I want to reassure people, you will not be arrested on the criminal summons unless there are outstanding warrants for other matters," said Ryan.

Organizers said it's more about addressing why kids aren't in school and giving parents the classes and resources to help with any problems.

Getting young people back in school also has an impact on the city.

"Twenty-five-percent of all juvenile crime that happens in this city happens during school hours. So obviously if we create a team and a division that can address the truancy issue, that could help deter some of the juvenile crime before they enter the juvenile justice system," said Pietrowski.

'Operation Safe Serve'  is Tuesday, May 31, 2016  from 4:00pm to 7:00pm at Mount Moriah Baptist Church, 2634 Carnes Avenue in Orange Mound.

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