For kids at school, the pressures to fit in or drop out are a daily reality. That's why Hall County and the Grand Island School District are tackling truancy with a tough program.
"The criminal side of state law says a kid needs to be in school and absent no more than 5 days per quarter or the hourly equivalent," Deputy Hall County Attorney Martin Klein said.
Since a quarter usually lasts about 50 days, the district uses a 10-percent rule. When students hit close to missing 10 percent of class time, it sends letters to warn parents and social workers help families form attendance plans.
If the letters and the plans for better attendance don't work, parents and often the students as well, are summoned for a hearing at the district office. For most families, the hearings are enough to encourage improvement. But if not, the hearing process is the last step before sending the truancy case to county court.
For Jasmin Rodriguez and her mom Griselda, the hearing process helped them realize her mounting tardies would not be ignored.
"Before I didn't care because I thought it wasn't really a problem. But now I try to get there on time," Jasmin said.
Jasmin and Griselda have had follow-up hearings the past couple of months.
"It used to be every week, and now it's every two weeks, and I'm actually doing better," Jasmin said.
But, this past week was a step back for Jasmin. She faced the Deputy County Attorney and explained why she was late four times last week.
"It feels like we didn't do nothing. Like we failed," Griselda Rodriguez said.
School administrators said they're worried that Jasmin's slipping grades and frequent tardies are leading her on a path to drop out of school. Griselda said she's worried as well.
" I want her to finish school, go to college, something I didn't do," Griselda said.
Still, the district isn't giving up on Jasmin. She and her mom are scheduled for another hearing next month.
"The possible repercussions are a referral to the county attorney's office but that's not what we want, we want them to work with us here," Klein said.