Dutch pupils face ‘jail’ for skipping class
10 December 2003
AMSTERDAM — Children who skip classes in the Twente region in the Netherlands risk being sentenced to several weeks in a youth penitentiary under new plans aimed at turning young people away from a life of crime.
The experiment will start in Almelo on 1 January 2004 and the national Public Prosecutions Office will closely examine the results of the program to determine if it could be used on a nation-wide basis. Success will be judged by a decline in the number of youth skipping classes.
Justice officials resolved to take tougher action against children who skip classes based on claims that regularly ditching lessons could lead to criminal behaviour. Almelo youth child prosecutor Vincent Smink is convinced that skipping classes is the first step towards a criminal career.
A youth caught skipping classes will receive a suspended sentence of two weeks for their first offence. The offender must also remain in contact with rehabilitation officials, who will try and set him or her on the right path, news service NOS reported.
If the student skips classes a second time, he or she will be temporarily detained in a youth institute. The magistrate will also be able to choose to impose a community work order rather than a detention sentence.
The programme is aimed at teens, aged 12 to 16, who regularly ditch classes. Pupils who are occasionally absent themselves from school will not be targeted. Instead, a prosecution spokesman said several dozen problem youth who cause regular street disturbances will be focused on.
The courts in Twente have confirmed they are prepared to co-operate with the scheme and have described the approach as “sympathetic”.
But education unions Onderwijsbond CNV and the Algemene Onderwijsbond (AOb) are concerned that the detaining pupils will have a negative impact. The CNV union said community work orders in retirement homes and hospitals would bear more fruit, news agency ANP reported.
The college van procureurs-generaal, or prosecution policy council, also opposes the plan. A spokesman said detention for skipping classes was a very strong measure and that such a programme should not be implemented on a nation-wide basis. He said skipping classes was misbehaving, not a criminal offence.
Current legislation allows a fine of EUR 2.50 to a maximum of EUR 2,250 for teens who skip classes. The maximum fine was legislated three years ago, much to the disgust of education unions and school leaders.
[Copyright Expatica News 2003]
Subject: Dutch news