Plan to fine Victorian parents

Under a proposed law change next year, Bendigo parents could be hit with a $70 fine if their child misses more than five days of school without a good excuse.

Education Minister Martin Dixon said parents would be fined $70.42 if they didn’t provide a valid excuse for their child’s absence.

Currently the fine sits at $140.84, but it has not been used against any parents since the law was introduced in 2006. 

Under the current law, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has to take parents to court to fine them.

But under new laws proposed by Mr Dixon, excuses such as shopping days, sleeping in and family visits on more than five days in a year would result in a $70.42 fine. Truancy, school refusal, instances where a student is sent home and cultural days would be exempt.

While details are scarce, principals would be able to alert attendance officers to problem parents offering lame excuses. 

Those parents would then be issued with school attendance notices and would need to provide a valid explanation for their child’s absence.

If they can’t provide a valid excuse, they will be issued with an infringement notice of half a penalty unit.

St Therese’s Primary School principal Matthew Mann did not support the fine and said there were many problems associated with the proposed law.

He argued that it would be too difficult to police student absences and the notion of “a valid excuse” was difficult to properly define. 

Mr Mann said the state government would be better off providing funding to schools to work with families with children who were absent from school with no reasonable excuse.

“For students who are truant there is very little support,” he said. 

“I believe the government would be better off putting money into schools to fund a welfare officer who can work with these families.”

Spring Gully Primary School assistant principal Diana Devlin agreed that the fine was an overreaction and said she did not believe it was the solution to preventing truancy.

“Poor attendance is not just a problem of poor excuses,” she said. “Some students have issues at home and in their family circle.”

Hayle Edert’s son Ethan started prep at Kennington Primary School this year and she said the proposed legislation went too far.

“I wouldn’t let my child have a day off unless he was sick, but I think the fine a bit extreme.”

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