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Father must attend classes with son in truancy crackdown

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SANTA ANA, Calif. — As part of a crackdown on truancy, a father must attend classes with his fourth-grade son after the student allegedly missed 45 days of school.

Judge Robert Hutson ordered Carlos Ayala to accompany his son to Anaheim Elementary School before returning to court Feb. 20 for a progress hearing.

Ayala could face fines, probation and even jail time as a result of his son's habitual absence but charges could be dropped if the boy attends school.

Ayala, who works nights, was charged with one count of truancy because he is responsible for the boy's care during the day while his mother works, authorities said.

"Like any other kid, he just doesn't like school," Ayala said after the hearing Wednesday. "It's boring. But I tell him he has to go because it's the law."

The judge also ordered a 17-year-old girl to get back to her classes after she pleaded innocent to three counts of truancy. Authorities say she has missed more than 17 days of school at Anaheim's Gilbert East Continuation School.

The girl's parents, who are divorced, have not been charged.

"I'm very aware of how important student attendance is," her father, Tim Jones, told the judge. The fourth-grade teacher said grounding her had failed to stop his daughter from ditching classes.

School truancy has been prosecuted rarely in the past because there wasn't enough staff or money. But the Orange County District Attorney's Office recently won state and federal grants to assign three prosecutors to truancy cases.

The goal is to raise attendance and lower dropout rates.

Truancy can carry other penalties as well. Parents could lose public assistance benefits, and students could lose their driver's licenses or be subject to curfews, random searches and drug tests.