ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Cut school, risk losing your driver’s license.
That’s the penalty a Rio Rancho lawmaker has written into a bill he has filed in advance of the upcoming Legislative session.
Sen. Craig Brandt, a former vice president of the Rio Rancho Public Schools Board, believes it’s time to hold teens who habitually play hookey responsible for their actions.
Current state law puts the onus on parents to ensure their kids don’t skip school, giving probation officials, district attorneys and courts the authority to take action and levy fines of up to $500 for repeat offenses.
Brandt’s bill would amend the state’s Compulsory School Attendance law and Motor Vehicle Code.
It would give school authorities the ability to work with their local Motor Vehicle Division to deny or suspend licenses of students who have a pattern of truancy, poor grades and are at risk of dropping out.
“In the past, all the responsibility was on parents,” Brandt said in an interview on Tuesday. “All of us parents of teens know that some responsibility and accountability has to be on the student.”
He believes the possibility of losing a license to drive would send a strong message, particularly to teenage boys.
“They hold dear their driver’s license,” Brandt said. “Driving is a privilege not a right. Being able to lose that privilege is huge.”
Brandt believes the current law puts pressure on an overloaded court system.
“I think when a district attorney has to decide between going after a guy who’s robbed a convenience store or a kid who’s truant, they tend to focus on the worst crimes,” he said.
Brandt introduced a similar bill in the 2013 Legislative session but it died in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Brandt said he’s been assured by the Governor’s Office that his new bill will be heard in the coming 30-day session, and he’s hopeful it will pass.