Judge Pushes Teens From Truancy to Triumph

Every day hundreds of thousands of students fail to show up to school, often for no good reason. But in Midland, Texas, one judge has come up with some creative ways to make a difference -- so much so that cities across that state are following his lead.

In Midland, about 3,500 students, or 10 percent of the student population, regularly skip school -- and truancy is often a step toward dropping out altogether. For those who habitually miss class, they'll see more than the principal -- they'll end up in front of Judge David Cobos.

VIDEO: Judge and GPS trackers keep kids in school.
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Cobos is known as one of the toughest, most creative judges in Texas.

"I'm itching to put you in jail," he tells one truant. He browbeats another, dressing down a truant who claims he missed school to care for his grandmother -- but the dates of her illness and his absences don't exactly match up.

"So using your poor grandmother and her illness is a bunch of crap. … You haven't been to school all year," Cobos tells him.

He fines students and requires them -- not their parents -- to pay.

"Do you have $585 you want to pay me right now?" That's just one question Cobos had for Brandon Ormbsy, 15, who admitted to the judge and his mother that he had been skipping school and using drugs before his court date.

Ormsby's mother, Denise Molinar, is frustrated. "If I tell him not to do it, he's going to do it anyway," she said of his tendency to leave home without her permission. Of getting him to school, she said, "have to take him and he doesn't care, it's like no big deal."

The judge is fed up. "You don't care about yourself, your parent, your siblings. So what's it going to take to get your attention?" Cobos asks.

Instead of imposing new fines, Cobos arranges for Ormsby to be fitted with a GPS monitor.

"You are going to get a monitor today. And I guarantee you better do what I'm telling you to do. You are ordered to go to school. No unexcused absences or tardies, no behavior problems -- you better be an angel," Cobos warns.

The monitor will track Ormsby's movements, 24-7.

James Henry, program director of the Justice Court Alternative Sentencing Program, fitted Ormsby with his ankle bracelet monitor.

"[It's] very compact, very durable," he tells the teen. "If you mess this thing up, it's because you were trying to mess it up. You understand? You can shower in it, you can take a bath. Whatever the case may be. Run, and do everything you would normally do. Ok. It's just that you are going to have this thing strapped to your ankle."

Before he leaves, Ormsby tells ABC News that he thinks the device will "help me with going to school and staying out of trouble." He said he was surprised that the court has the technology available. As for Cobos, the teen says, "He's pretty harsh but I guess it's what I deserve."

Cobos was the first in the state to use the GPS technology. In the last year, he has placed the electronic leash on 20 teenagers, at a cost to the county of $10,000 annually. Word is spreading like a Texas brush fire. And it's acting as a dramatic deterrent.

"I'll be going to court this afternoon with 20 of my students. And they've all asked me, 'Am I going to get the monitor?'" said Premier High School principal Molly Jasso.

It's helping one of her students, Joey Salazar. He says he used to skip school "to hang out with friends and be stupid."

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