LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - A judge found 12 New Mexico parents guilty of truancy Wednesday after they admitted their children repeatedly skipped school.
Those parents pled no contest to charges to charges of Failure to Enforce Compulsory School Attendance, according to the Third Judicial District Attorney's Office. Four cases were rescheduled.
A judge issued warrants for the arrest of two parents who failed to appear, a press release stated.
Wednesday's docket was the fifth group of parents to face those charges in 2017, thanks to a partnership between Las Cruces Public Schools and the Gadsden Independent School District, according to the release.
The crime of truancy is a petty misdemeanor in New Mexico, but multiple charges could lead to jail time, the release stated. One parent was convicted on a second charge of truancy, so she was placed on probation and faces "court-ordered services" through the public school system.
“Our intent is not to be punitive, but to convey the importance of education,” said Third Judicial District Attorney Mark D’Antonio.
ABC-7 has learned LCPS enlisted the help of the district attorney. Since September 2017, the district attorney's office has convicted 32 parents of truancy for allowing their children to miss class.
"We want to instill in the parents how important it is for their children to go to school," D'Antonio said, "It's a direct mathematical correlation between children who don't go to school at an early age to gang activity later."
The partnership has received mixed reaction from former educators.
"I think that if they don't come in to school, we should be more interested in looking into the causes, than slapping people with truancy," said former educator Sharon Thomas.
"It's important, but a lot of people choose to homeschool their kids," said Dave Adie, another former educator.
Eric Lopez, with the attendance and student services department at LCPS, is responsible for tracking students skipping class. "When we look at students who have dropped out, one of the primary reasons they're dropping out is they're not in school," Lopez said.
If a student misses class more than ten times, the school will reach out to parents at least twice to find a solution. If there's no response, the school will refer the case to the district attorney.
"Parents don't need to fear us. We're actually here to help eliminate any barrier so their kids can go to school," said Lopez.