Caldwell tinkers with policy to pull absent teens’ driver’s licenses

Idaho teens who don’t attend school could lose their driver’s licenses. 

It’s not a new approach and it’s enshrined in Idaho code, but it came into the limelight Tuesday when Caldwell trustees considered bolstering their existing policy.

Caldwell superintendent N. Shalene French
Caldwell superintendent N. Shalene French

Caldwell High administrators use the policy to encourage participation, Caldwell Superintendent Shalene French said, and would “absolutely be happy to continue to do so.” The new version is more thorough than the current iteration, and spells out procedures for revoking licenses. 

Marisela Pesina, the chair of the Caldwell School Board

“It seems fair to me,” Board Chair Marisela Pesina said. “There’s privileges that you get when you’re attending school.”

French pointed out that such a policy is in place in at least two large districts with high attendance and graduation rates, Pocatello/Chubbuck School District and Bonneville School District. 

Pocatello/Chubbuck Bonneville Caldwell
2023 fall attendance rates 94.3% 93.5% 91.7%
2023 four-year graduation rate 90% 90.8% 63.2%

The data shows that Pocatello and Bonneville’s four-year graduation rates are notably higher than Caldwell’s, and their attendance rates are slightly higher

Caldwell trustees are considering refreshing their policy as legislators have been tying more school funding — including what could be significant dollars for school facilities if House Bill 521 passes — to average daily attendance. Caldwell’s proposed policy update is still pending, and has not been finalized. 

Douglas McLaren, the principal at Bonneville’s Thunder Ridge High, said administrators rarely reach out to the Department of Motor Vehicles to recommend suspending a student’s driver’s license: “We exhaust all other avenues before going down this route, but it can happen.”

Still, “it has been helpful for students to be aware of this possibility,” Bonneville Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme said. 

Under Idaho law, students under 18 must have a diploma or proof of being enrolled in some kind of education (including high school; G.E.D prep; home schooling; or a job training program) to get a driver’s license or permit. 

It’s much more common not to approve students for a license the first time around than to revoke one that’s been issued, McLaren said. 

Bonneville’s policy, Pocatello/Chubbuck’s policy, and Caldwell’s proposed policy update all have similar language to what’s in Idaho code, and spell out an appeals process and hardship waiver.

Quinn Perry, the policy and government affairs director for the Idaho School Boards Association, said the organization also has a similar model policy that links attendance to driving privileges. 

In Idaho, students who are 16 or older can legally drop out of school, so the driver’s license policy is one of the only major consequences schools can issue to keep them in class. 

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this report. 

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro reports from her hometown of Pocatello. Prior to joining EdNews, she taught English at Century High and was a reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. She has won state and regional journalism awards, and her work has appeared in newspapers throughout the West. Flandro has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and Spanish from the University of Montana, and a master’s degree in English from Idaho State University. You can email her at [email protected] or call or text her at (208) 317-4287.

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