Judge Duane Bailey of Madison County (IL) was on my show this afternoon to talk about a new program he and his colleagues have developed for dealing with kids who don’t go to school.

Explaining that “being punitive doesn’t help,” Bailey says this program is for hardcore truants who have missed 10% of the school year. The program offers kids an option. They either go back to school, and show improvement in their grades over a 12-week period, or take the community service option and do some manual labor. The first alternative includes assistance in the form of tutoring and discovering what’s making the kid miss school in the first place, from drugs to bullying to whatever. It also involves the parents, who are often happy to have an authority figure like Bailey help them deal with this issue.

Bailey says the idea is to have the courts deal with kids this way, rather than having to deal with them later when they’re arrested for petty (and often not-so-petty) crimes, beginning a lifetime relationship with the criminal justice system.

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