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Truant students in Montgomery County off to court

Thursday - 11/28/2013, 4:35am  ET

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Students who are chronically late or absent from school head to truancy court in Montgomery County. (WTOP File)

WASHINGTON - Students who don't show up for school are headed to court. Sort of.

Truancy court is an idea that took root in Montgomery County three years ago. Volunteer prosecutors and judges get involved with middle school kids who are chronically late or absent from school.

A truant student is a child who misses 18 days of school in a single semester or 36 days throughout the course of a school year.

Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy says it makes a difference that goes beyond school.

"I firmly believe the kids that are not actively involved in their education are far more likely to get involved in risky behaviors," says McCarthy.

The court isn't exactly law and order. The judges or prosecutors, teachers and mentors meet with kids to help figure out what's getting in the way of their education and how to get them back on track.

McCarthy says officials are seeing positive changes.

"In most instances, probably close to about an 80 percent improvement rate in reducing truancy and tardiness in these kid," McCarthy says.

WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @KateRyanWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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