School says kids picked up late will go to court

An elementary school in Oregon has threatened to send children who aren’t picked up after school on time this fall to the Department of Human Services, KATU-TV (ABC affiliate) reports.

A Swegle Elementary School parent sent KATU a copy of the letter.

Parents at Swegle Elementary School in the Salem-Keizer School District received a letter dated June 24, announcing, “Children must be picked up on time. If they are not picked up on time, we will call DHS and you will then have to pick them up at court the next day.”

The station tried to call the school for comment, but their requests were not answered. Also, the parent who sent a copy of the letter to the station said she had received a robocall from the school on which the principal apologized for the letter.

Although I’m quite sure clogging up the courts isn’t something anybody wants and the school won’t actually call DHS just because a parent is late in picking up their son or daughter, the disposition of the matter still lies with DHS. This type of event isn’t necessarily a sign of potential neglect, and it certainly doesn’t fall under DHS’s definition of abuse:

If a child has been abused or neglected, [Child Protective Services, within DHS] and law enforcement staff decide, with family help if possible, whether the child can be safely left at home. DHS and law enforcement have the authority to remove a child from home if he is in immediate danger of abuse. A court order also can authorize DHS or law enforcement to place a child in protective custody. Less than 10 percent of total child abuse reports resulted in a child being removed from home and placed in relative or substitute care.

While it is very important that parents pick up their children on time and don’t leave them stranded at the school after hours, threatening to send children to court and place them temporarily in DHS custody is alarming and unbecoming. Furthermore, a letter that reflects such a gross error in judgment on the part of school staff should be retracted with another letter, sent in the same manner as the original and to the same group of people, not with a robocall.

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Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.