AUSTIN (KXAN) - Popping out the end of a slide and chasing after his youngest of three grandchildren, Ron Hejtmenek said he is still truly a kid at heart. But a lot has changed since Ron Hejtmenek was actually a kid decades ago - even when it comes to skipping school.
"I was lucky to go to a very small school, and the culture was 'where is Ron today?'" Hejtmenek said. "Whenever that happened, the cultural pressure was there."
These days, if his grandkids skipped enough times, they could face court, big fines, and in some cases jail if they do not pay up.
"Yeah, it's hard," he said, taking a breather in the Downtown Austin park where he played with his family Tuesday. "It's a lot for my daughter to consider with her kids. It's even different from when she was in school not too long ago."
Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, wants to replace criminal penalties for skipping school with a system of progressive sanctions. His Senate Bill 1234 would include warning letters, behavior contracts and community service.
"Ticketing for truancy means a kid doesn't come to school, so he gets a $500 ticket," Whitmire said. "Sometimes they'll ticket his parent, as well. We need to go to the root cause of truancy, so I'll be focusing on how to prevent the criminal justice system on becoming a school discipline issue."
Heijmenek said he dodged the truancy bullet with his daughter, Erin Althaus.
"If she did (skip), I never knew about it," he laughed. "She was one of these good kids."
He said he hoped the same for his grandkids. But if it comes to it, he and his daughter preferred Whitmire's proposal over punishment.
"At some point, the kids have to be held accountable for themselves," said Althaus.
SB 1234 – which the Senate Criminal Justice Committee will consider on Tuesday - has received criticism from some school administrators, whose job performance ratings are often connected to test scores and dropout rates.
The freezing and near-freezing rain that swooped into Central Texas overnight prompted numerous school closings and delays and made for a harrowing morning commute on Friday.
The Round Rock-based computer giant, Dell Inc., is offering some workers voluntary buyouts as it seeks to trim costs and boost productivity.
The Austin Humane Society reopened to the public Friday after closing its doors for six weeks.
A Lago Vista couple faces child endangerment charges after authorities found their home covered in feces and garbage.
It's the first criminal charge following a yearlong criminal investigation into the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.
Cold temperatures forecast for Saturday morning have prompted Georgetown officials to cancel the parade associated with the annual Christmas Stroll. The Stroll, however, will go on.