Prosecutor cracking down on youngster assist, instructional neglect
Mar. 12—ANDERSON — The Madison County Prosecutor’s Office is intensifying efforts to crack down on two significant problems in the county.
Prosecutor Rodney Cummings has hired two investigators to pursue non-payment of child support and educational neglect cases.
One recent change is that all the cases are now being handled by Madison Circuit Court Division 2 Judge Steve Koester, the juvenile judge.
“It’s for people who are in significant arrears in the payment of child support,” Cummings said. “We’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars.”
In the past, Cummings explained, there have been civil actions filed. His office will now be charged with the following through on the filing of criminal charges.
“Once it gets over $16,000, we start filing criminal charges,” he said. “Now we have investigators that will get warrants and arrest them.”
Non-support of a dependent child carries a possible felony charge, and a second conviction will elevate the seriousness of the charge.
Investigator Stephen Blackwell said the amounts owed range from $10,000 up to $80,000
Cummings said there are 7,000 child support cases in the county.
“People aren’t making an effort to support their dependent children,” he said. “We’re going through the civil court and tagging all the cases that are over $15,000 owed and filing criminal charges.
“We’re pushing this strongly,” Cummings said.
The office can garnish wages through a court order, tax returns or winnings at a casino.
Cummings said until recently his office didn’t have the resources to enforce educational neglect.
Former Anderson police detective Mitch Carroll’s responsibility is to serve as a liaison with all the school corporations.
“We want a closer relationship with the schools that are aware of the children not attending school,” he said. “We’ll go out, knock on doors and find out why children are not attending school.”
“If they refuse, they get charged with a crime,” Cummings said.
Educational neglect is a felony; compulsory attendance is a misdemeanor.
“Our desire is to get the kids in school using the least intrusive means possible, but if we have to, we will file a felony charge,” Cummings said. “There are people that are refusing to send their children to school.”
Blackwell said e-learning is easier to track because authorities can see if a student has been online.
“The children were logging in but not attending the classes,” he said. “They were telling their parents they were online.”
Cummings said the goal is to intervene earlier by starting to ask questions after 10 days and persuade them how important it is for the kids to attend school.
Carroll has already been talking to parents.
“COVID gave people an excuse for a great many things which in this situation was to lose track of their children,” he said. “It’s a parental responsibility to make sure your kids are in school.”
Carroll said the position “is hold their feet to the fire.”
“If we talk to a parent and the child is still not attending school, that’s where the filing of a charge comes into effect,” he said.
The filing of the misdemeanor is the first step; the second step is felony educational neglect, Carroll said.
He is currently investigating 35 cases of educational neglect.
“The first week, I reached out to all the schools in Madison County to open the lines of communication,” Carroll said. “Were trying to streamline the process at all the schools on the reporting of excessive absences. My position is to help the schools.”
Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.