Texas turns away from criminal truancy courts for students

DALLAS (AP) -- 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.

Governor 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.

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