US

Texas turns away from criminal student truancy courts, instead encourages school intervention

  • Natod'Ja Washington, 16, and a tenor percussionist in her school band, practices with her drum sticks on the dinning room table as her mother, Natasha Holloway, rear, prepares to take Washington to a a summer school program Friday, June 19, 2015, in Dallas. A Texas law that’s sent more than 100,000 students a year to criminal court for missing school and even some to jail  is off the books, though a Justice Department investigation into one county’s truancy courts continues. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

    Natod'Ja Washington, 16, and a tenor percussionist in her school band, practices with her drum sticks on the dinning room table as her mother, Natasha Holloway, rear, prepares to take Washington to a a summer school program Friday, June 19, 2015, in Dallas. A Texas law that’s sent more than 100,000 students a year to criminal court for missing school and even some to jail is off the books, though a Justice Department investigation into one county’s truancy courts continues. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)  (The Associated Press)

  • Natod'Ja Washington, left, 16, poses for a photo with her mother Natasha Holloway in their home as they hold a student sign in sheet for truancy court Friday, June 19, 2015, in Dallas. The form must be signed by all of her teachers confirming Washington's attendance in school. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

    Natod'Ja Washington, left, 16, poses for a photo with her mother Natasha Holloway in their home as they hold a student sign in sheet for truancy court Friday, June 19, 2015, in Dallas. The form must be signed by all of her teachers confirming Washington's attendance in school. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)  (The Associated Press)

  • Natasha Holloway stands in front of her home talking about her and her daughter Natod'Ja experience with truancy court Friday, June 19, 2015, in Dallas. A Texas law that’s sent more than 100,000 students a year to criminal court for missing school and even some to jail is off the books, though a Justice Department investigation into one county’s truancy courts continues. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

    Natasha Holloway stands in front of her home talking about her and her daughter Natod'Ja experience with truancy court Friday, June 19, 2015, in Dallas. A Texas law that’s sent more than 100,000 students a year to criminal court for missing school and even some to jail is off the books, though a Justice Department investigation into one county’s truancy courts continues. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)  (The Associated Press)

A Texas law that's sent about 100,000 students a year to criminal court for missing school — and even some to jail — is off the books, though a Justice Department investigation into one county's truancy courts continues.

Gov. Greg Abbott has signed into law a measure to decriminalize unexcused absences and require school districts to implement preventive measures. It will take effect Sept. 1.

Reform advocates say the threat of a heavy fine — up to $500 plus court costs — and a criminal record wasn't keeping children in school anyway and was sending those who couldn't pay into a criminal justice system spiral.

Sen. John Whitmire says most truancy issues involve hardships, adding, "to criminalize the hardships just doesn't solve anything."