Morgan County District Attorney Scott Anderson has implemented the Helping Families Initiative (HFI) program to curb the truancy and bad behavior ongoing in local schools.

Anderson believes that by ensuring kids are in school and well-behaved, they may be able to avoid the school-to-prison pipeline many face around the state.

1819 News spoke with Anderson, and he emphasized that what had been previously reported by some media outlets made this appear as a law enforcement crackdown on parents and students. However, he wanted to point out that this initiative intends to provide opportunities to make sure kids have the ability to get to school, and the resources they need outside of school to be successful are there, and if the child must miss school for a day, then that it is for an excused versus an unexcused absence.

Anderson discussed the program in a video posted to the DA's YouTube channel.

"With regards to truancy, the DA's office is going to send a letter to either the parents, or the grandparents of the child, or the caregiver," he said. "And it's going to be a friendly letter, and it's going to tell them your child has three unexcused absences. Then, it's going to offer aid. It's not going to be a threat. We are going to offer to assist them in making sure their child attends school on a regular basis."

According to the North Alabama DA, this is the low-hanging fruit of the program.

Anderson said the other issue of kids acting up in school is more challenging. He plans to tackle the problem and has asked several agencies in Decatur and Morgan County from the private and public sectors to assist with whatever they need to help a child and find the root cause for the disruptive behavior.

In a statement, Anderson said, "HFI seeks to address any underlying issues associated with a student's lack of school success and not just the outward symptom that is manifesting itself through poor school attendance and/or out-of-school suspension. By addressing a family's deeper needs, it is possible that we can change that family's circumstances and break the cycle of repetitive poor performance for the child."

The organizations assisting Anderson and his office include Morgan County DHR, Community Action, Morgan County Juvenile Probation, Morgan County Mental Health Association, Riverside Counseling, First Priority, Morgan County Sytems of Services, Decatur City Schools, Community Free Clinic, PACT, United Way, Decatur Utilities, Decatur Youth Services, The Neighborhood Christian Center, The Decatur Police Department and Morgan County Sheriff Office.

To conclude, the DA's statement emphasized he can only do so much.

"Code of Alabama 1975, § 16-28-12(c) states that the District Attorney will vigorously enforce truancy and code of conduct violations within the school system," he added. "This program, in addition to helping you fulfill your responsibilities as a parent/guardian, will assist me in that effort."

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