truancy

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

In recent years, Washington state has led the nation in locking up kids for running away, skipping school and other non-criminal behavior. Now state lawmakers are considering whether to ban juvenile detention for "status offenses".

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.

Angela Nguyen / Northwest News Network

In 2015 a federal judge in Seattle ruled that the state of Washington was violating the constitutional rights of mentally ill jail inmates by not evaluating and treating them quickly enough so they could stand trial. The day before that ruling Evon Bercier's 32-year-old son Shawn was locked up in the Spokane County Jail.

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.