truancy

Scott Matsuda / Red Fish Blue Fish Photography

On a gray, rainy afternoon a man walks into a library and shows a missing-person flyer to a librarian. It’s in a day’s work for a foster child “locator” whose job is to find kids who’ve run away.

On a Tuesday morning a pair of brothers cry in court and say goodbye to their mother as they are sent to juvenile detention for skipping school--a phenomenon in which Washington state leads the country.

With a coffee cup in her hand, a woman visits the jail where her brain-injured son has been held for 57 days, asking through a bulletproof window about his medication.

Washington State Center for Court Research

Poor and minority students in Washington state are more likely to be labeled truants. That’s a according to the state’s 2015 Truancy Report out Wednesday.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Nationally, there’s a push to outlaw incarceration of students for skipping school and other non-criminal behavior and use alternatives.

But some judges are reluctant to give detention up.

School districts in Washington are required to file a truancy petition with juvenile court when a student is chronically absent. Grays Harbor County Superior Court Judge David Edwards believes detention is one way to get a kid who’s not following court orders back on track.

'I think you need a tune-up'

Gail Morehouse

The first time a judge sent Marquise-Unique Travon Flynn to juvenile detention he was in fifth grade. He had one goal: not to cry in front of the other kids in the courtroom.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Skipping school is not a crime in Washington state, but it can still land a student behind bars.